Dear Eleanor and Wesley,
Which is better, the box or the thing inside the box? I’m convinced that somewhere along the line, the answer changes.
On the tail end of the holiday season we found ourselves nearly buried in the various packagings of the Christmas loot. Toys were scattered everywhere, most of them new. Some were already losing their luster. We were looking for something to fill up our evening in that witching hour between dinner and bedtime. As Ellie bounced around the living room looking for a bit of fun, she ended up inside a box, or rather with the box on top of her. Inspiration had struck. As the large, slender Amazon emblazoned cardboard started bobbing and weaving, you were instantly star of your very own parade. Somehow you recalled to mind the New Year’s Day Rose Bowl Parade we watched more than a week before. Somehow you remembered a very specific, Chinese Heritage float. Even more particularly, you were thrilled by the prospect of imitating the dancers in the dragon costumes as they flanked the float slowly rolling down Orange Grove Boulevard.
Where I saw a chunk of trash and a chore, you saw a chance for fun. This is an advantage the young will always have over the old. Imagination comes naturally to you, having seen and experienced so little but having such a hunger to engage the world outside our door. I wonder if it is necessarily natural for us to abandon this capacity, eying a box for its more obviously useful purposes? Years go by and we start to overlook the insignificant, we miss details, we preclude possibilities. Old eyes steal the myriad of lives the mundane objects surrounding us might live. How tragic to leave a box as an untouched cardboard receptacle, overshadowed by whatever was housed inside.
Of course, imagination takes work. I noticed the subtle objection in my gut as the notion of your very own dragon costume became firmly planted. It would mean construction paper and glue and scissors and markers and crayons and streamers and the clean up that came with it all. I haven’t thought of it this way before, but when it comes down to it, I would much rather be entertained. It is much easier to let someone else do the imagining, and take what is given to me. However, that is not the way we start. Realizing the potential of an unadulterated box is an irresistible temptation for a four-year-old. What blissful work it is.
Which is better, the box or what is inside the box? I’m hopeful, with your help, my answer still can change.