I have a lavender hatbox that stays under my bed. I got it years (and years) ago when I was in high school. Back then, I used it to keep things that were important to me. Notes passed from friends during class containing silly inside jokes went in the box. Notes from boyfriends went in, too. Corsages from the two proms I attended found their way into the box, along with pictures of friends and fun times. Eventually it got quite stuffed, and when I went away to college, it went into the attic. There it stayed for a number of years, holding all those memories that had seemed so important those years ago.
Not too long ago, I went up in my parents attic and got down the hatbox. I got a laugh at some of the things people had written to me in all those notes. It was fun, but they didn’t really hold any value for me anymore, and I couldn’t see tying up the space in keeping them. The corsages were dry and discolored, and besides, that romance was long gone and not missed. I found out that just because a boy tells you he loves you doesn’t mean that he doesn’t also love another girl, or several other girls. I found out that sometimes you forget what was behind the inside jokes that seems so hilarious at the time. Some of the pictures I kept, but most of them didn’t seem all that important anymore. I cleaned out the box and started from scratch.
In went the obituary for my precious, precious Mema. In went the pictures of her and my grandpa just two years before her death, at their 50th anniversary, because I can’t look at them yet. In went the bulletin for the last church service she was ever able to attend. In went all the cards and letters I had saved from my husband, who has quite a way with words for a country boy. The ticket stubs from our honeymoon Savannah riverboat dinner cruise also found their way in there. A few of my bridal portraits that I haven’t found the right place for. My grandmother’s handkerchief, my “something borrowed” which she insisted I keep. Some dried petals from her funeral. In went cards written to me by special people at special times in my life; my 18th birthday, my college graduation, my wedding. I think about how things are different in my box now, but somewhat the same. It’s still filled with pictures and written words, and tokens of remembrance. Only some of the names and faces have changed. One day I hope to put pictures of my children in there. Cards and pictures they will make for me. Mementos from this life that changes, but somehow still stays the same. But as always, not just anything can go into the hatbox. After all, it’s a small box, and space is limited and precious. When it’s something that wouldn’t be worth a penny to anybody else but means the world to you, that’s when you know it’s hatbox worthy.