Box of joys - FamilyEducation

Box of joys

April 29,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Last weekend, T. had an idea for a craft. She'd been begging me to do a craft with her all morning, but I was restless and overwhelmed, spinning from one thing to the next, worried about how I was going to get all my grading done in one weekend, and fixated on the messy state of the house, and the mountain of laundry piled up by the laundry closet. A craft? I didn't have time for crafts!

But T. is a relentless girl. I admire her tenacity, even if it can sometimes be maddening at times. She'll ask you the same thing a dozen different ways, wearing you down each time until she hits on the right angle, and you give in.

But I KNOW what I want to make, Mama! T. told me. A Box of Joys!

I was immediately intrigued by this idea. Where had she seen this concept? At school? From one of her magazines? I loved the name she gave this project, and the promise behind it. When I asked her to explain the craft further, she insisted this was her own idea and then proceeded (these are her very own words)  to tell me how to make a Box of Joys:

Take a shoebox

Decorate the outside anyway you like

Inside you collect all the things that give you joy

Close the lid

Don't let the joys get out!

T. told me that the "joys" written on the outside of her box are the ones that she thinks about for when she grows up--memories of her future life, envisioned now. She will, apparently, grow up to be a scientist, and live in Massachusetts.

The joys on the inside are the joys for the here and now.

Her childhood.

She worked on her box on the screened-in porch. The afternoon was hot, but every now and then a breeze floated through the porch screens. I thought about my own Box of Joys, and what I'd put inside of it--the joys I hope for the future, the joys of the here and now: my kids, my family, my friends, my husband and the simple joys, like a cup of coffee in the morning, or chocolate, or a good book, or a favorite television show. I realized, too, when I had given myself up to T.'s craft, to the quiet afternoon, to the squeaking of the markers on the shoebox lid, and the occasional buzz of the carpenter bees outside, that is my kids who have taught me to savor the small, and unexpected joys--the ones that start like tiny ripples, and spread beautifully wide before you even know it.