Letters to myself: Box #1

This cigar box is the first candidate because it is different from the other five. While the others are the classic cigar box shape – long, broad, and very flat, with a lid that nestles down in between the front and sides – this one is made of proper wood, and is 4 inches front to back, 4 inches tall, and 6 or 7 inches long. According to stickers and woodburned lettering, this box originally contained 25 cigars handmade in the Dominican Republic; now I open the scrollworked front latch to lift the lid on its brass hinges to find something very different inside.

Another box. This is bemusingly apt; a box within a box, layers within layers. The inner box is only one of the many contents, and it is very small.

I put my box in a box for you

I put my box in a box for you

I am fairly certain that this box is actually made out of cut and carved ivory; perhaps I should feel guilty, but I feel fairly certain that this box is in fact older than me. I do not remember how it came into my possession. A gift? A yard sale find, a thrift store snag? It has holds in the top that make me think perhaps this was meant to hold something scented. Open it up, I find it is lined with a cheap red velvet (perhaps mor accurately a velour?), and having forgotten that lining, it surprises me just as it used to. There are two coins nestled inside; one is a 1944 United States dime, which a quick perusal of the internet tells me is known as the Mercury dime. It has been carefully kept for many years because, unlike modern dimes, this one is made of silver. The other coing is a 1963 United States of Mexico 5 cent piece. It was given to me while I was working at Barnes and Noble in Albany, NY; I was one of the head cashiers at the time, and upon many occasions would wrap books and other purchases for customers. As always, this was free of charge, and by company policy we were not to accept tips for our work. One time I carefully giftwrapped a book for a lovely old man, while talking about the book, and the friend he was giving it to. It was very pleasant, quietly companionable work, and I was quite pleased with the wrapping job when I was finished. He was very pleased as well, and tried to insist upon tipping me. I was a little mortified; I think of the sort of work I did in retail as simply Doing My Job Right. I never thought I was particularly exceptional, but he disagreed. He did let me refuse the greenbacks he tried to give me, but he in turn insisted upon making me a present of this coin instead, as a gift. Collectively these two coins have a modern value of under $4… but they are dear enough to me to hold onto them.

Nail Lacquer. Next I unearthed nail polish; three bottles, and this discovery is bemusingly timely as I’ve recently begun occasionally painting my nails again. I got out of the habit of doing so for quite a long time.

Maybe this is just the right shade to distract you from my intense emotional void

Is there a flag in these colors?

I do not recall the occasion of my acquisition of any of these colors; I know that I have worn the glittery pink/red color frequently, and the mother of pearl one almost not at all. The silver-glitter-in-black (aptly named “midnight”) mostly adorned my hands for specific parties and forays to goth night at the then-local club. These will not be going back into the box for storage; they shall join other, more recently acquired nail polishes on a shelf in the bathroom, which shall all at some point be picked through and culled in turn.

Ink. One bottle of Royal Blue Writing Ink. I remember the occasion of my getting this bottle of ink, though I do not recall having used so much of it; the bottle is 2/3 full.

The pen is rrrrrrrrrroyal blue!

What is the hex code for "royal blue" - has the Queen approved it?

This bottle came as part of a writing set, from Barnes and Noble before I worked there by several years. I mostly got the set simply for the ink, though it came with a feather pen. I had just purchased a glass pen off eBay (in its formative years, there were some really fantastic, neat deals on there. Now it’s become one of those slick fleamarket dealers that’s trying to maximize return on their cheap crap.), and needed some ink to go with it. I saw that shade of blue and I was hooked. I’ve long been a fan of calligraphy and of fountain-type pens. When I was very young, maybe ten or so, I unearthed a calligraphy set that belonged to one of my parents, completely unused. I used it; I learned how to make basic calligraphy letters, and delighted in the fountain pen until a mishap unloaded all its black ink in the pocket of my yellow rain slicker, marring it indelibly. I could, I imagine, find a good way of marrying my calligraphy skills with my intermittent zest for bookbinding.

One Film Canister. I plucked this out of the box expecting the familiar clunk of undeveloped film; instead there was a metallic click and rattle, and I opened it to find it contained mostly pieces of jewelry.


I do have the One Ring to rule them all, but it's in a different box.

A flat hair clip of a sort that, I have learned, slices my hair all up to create the most horrific fly-aways and split ends. A black rhinestone and pearl small drop pendant. A single silver and blue cat earring. A clear rhinestone and pearl ring – faux pearl, off of which most of the pearlized coating has now flaked. My high school class ring. Two rings with runes stamped in them (Tiwaz: Honor, justice, leadership and authority. Analysis, rationality. Knowing where one’s true strengths lie. Willingness to self-sacrifice. Victory and success in any competition or in legal matters. Sowilo: Success, goals achieved, honor. The life-force, health. A time when power will be available to you for positive changes in your life, victory, health, and success. Contact between the higher self and the unconscious. Wholeness, power, elemental force, sword of flame, cleansing fire.) Two toe rings with little clear rhinestones in them. A pair of mismatched earrings nested together; these last two are badly discolored, as is to be expected of the sort of jewelry one buys in pairs of 6, 8, or 10 to a card at Claire’s. Much of my jewelry from the high school period of my life is this sort, before I really realized how badly my earlobes reacted to such low quality metal, and before I had a proper understanding of Quality Over Quantity rather than Getting The Most For My Money. I threw them out. The class ring is on my hand, with my graduation year and school mascot on one side, and my first name and the symbol for softball on the other. This last is a sore point, given the treatment I came up against in my senior year on that team.

A Charm Bracelet. The bracelet is a clasp style, the ends capped with silver beads; one of these twists off to allow addition or removal of beads and dangles to the bracelet.

You see the angle of my dangle.

Hands up, everyone who is surprised it is a dragonfly. ...yeah, me either.

I remember buying two of these bracelets at the same time; the other I gave to my mother, and the main charm on it was a sand dollar, something which she holds dear for reasons I shall not get into here as that is more her business than my own. This dragonfly was not the original charm on mine; I’ve forgotten what there was, but there was something in between all the separator beads. This dragonfly was a necklace pendant, repurposed to be my sole charm… though I do not recall having ever worn it thus.

A box of Strike On Box matches. These are an unremarkable and commonplace sort, the kind you buy in the grocery store in packs of 12. The box claims 32 count, and upon counting the matches (how very Rainman of me) I find there are 29. I wonder upon what I used those missing three.

A pair of concert tickets. One is to see The Artist (formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known As Prince) at the Fleet Center (Now known as the TD Banknorth Garden, but it will always be the Boston Garden in my heart) in Boston in 1997.

She's got a ticket to ride.

I make no apologies for my musical tastes.

I went with a boy named Ryan; we went to school together, and he idolized The Artist. He got the tickets for his birthday, and it was at that party that I decided to work him into asking me out. It felt fairly natural, until I discovered despite his big talk in general, how very uncomfortable he found things like… kissing. Things got weird, momma, and we decided that rather than drag out the awkward to call it quits and go back to being friends. Oddly, this was one of the very few relationships I had where we were pretty much able to go back to the same sort of friendship we’d had before dating. I always respected him for that. The other ticket is to see Grand Funk Railroad play at the South Shore Music Circus in 1998. I went with my family, and had a pretty fantastic time – they still knew how to rock.

A button pin. It reads, “Don’t bother me, I’m living happily ever after.” It’s pleasant to get a reminder that my attachment to fairy tales is not at all a recently upsprung thing.

Don't bother me, I'm putting tired memes on buttons

Happily, I said, happily dammit!

Really, if pushed I’d admit that I could never claim my love of fairy tales to have been recent. I was still in the single digit age bracket when my father bought my siblings and I a hefty tome of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (The originals, blood and death and maiming and vengeance and all), and it was all over from there. I’ve pretty much always enjoyed anything fairy tale, in the old school sense of people needing cleverness, of both sexes doing the hard work and the rescuing, and of the lengths people will go to, to make their dreams become real. Also, I’m a wicked sucker for buttons on my bag, lanyard, or backpack.

A Totem bag. In the mid-nineties there was not only a strong movement to alt/indie and grunge, but there was a simultaneous movement to nature, earth-based spirituality, and pseudo-native american shamanism.

Pouch contents.

I was not immune to these movements; in fact, I quietly, privately bought into a portion of the latter. It wasn’t privileged appropriation – at least, I keep telling myself it wasn’t, because I almost never talk about these very personal aspects of my beliefs and faiths. But this totem pouch was something that I purchased, and filled with a number of things that worked for me. The first thing that I pulled out was a small roll of cloth, and opening it I found I’d wound it around a small piece of incense; spice trickled onto my desk. The white cloth is stamped with the indigo image of a bird, and below that, “wisdom” – I carefully scooped the fallen spice back in to rewrap it. Beside that, there are the crumbled remains of certain herbs, and a handful of stones (one in the zuni bear shape that is now a part of my single tattoo: interesting, as I’d forgotten I’d ever owned that little stone piece), as well as several small metal charms. One has a foxprint and reads “fox”; one is a compase rose pointing west. One is a feather.

St Francis of Assisi cross. Somehow, I have had to deal with very little cognitive dissonance in the process of reconciling my ascription to various flavors of faith or worship.

I don't care if it rains or freezes, long as I've got my plastic Jesus riding on the dashboard of my car

St. Francis of Assisi cross: front

You can buy him phosphorescent glows in the dark, he's pink and pleasant, take him with you when you're travelling far

St. Francis of Assisi cross: back

I attended public school, but when I hit college I ended up bonding to one that had a Franciscan affiliation, complete with friars living on campus and involved in both academic and resident life. I don’t remember precisely when I acquired this cross; I think it might have been at the beginning of my sophomore year, when I was going to be working as a Resident Assistant. The front is the classic Franciscan cross, and it was found everywhere on campus, including one hung on the wall of pretty much every classroom; those had their own beauty, though, sporting a marvelous number of painted colors in contrast to this simple silver form. The back reads Assisi, with a star below, and then “Benedicat tibi dominus et custodiat te. Ostendat faciem suam tibi et misereatur tui. Convertat vultum suum ad te et det tibi pacem. Dominus benedicat te.” this translates approximately to “The Lord bless thee and keep thee. Let him show his face to thee and be gracious to you. O God turn his face toward you and give you peace. The Lord bless thee.” It’s a lovely blessing, but doesn’t even begin to really bring forth what Francis of Assisi was like – he was totally a natureboy, believed that animals were as much god’s creatures as humans, and that we should try to live close to the earth and in harmony with nature. Complete hippie, for the win.

More button pins. They were covered by other items, else I’d have included them with the first; it only supports my admitted attachment to the damn things.

The shiny, candy-like button!

The Hard Rock one was apparently heche en Mexico

It’s nice to find more of them, though, as I’ve been slowly but surely making a mosaic-esque artwork of my canvas shoulder bag, with the strategic application of these button things in all shapes and sizes- well, all sizes, anyway. The shape is always round. Anyway, as to those shown: “Coffee isn’t helping; get the jumper cables” – I’ve been a caffeine-based life form for years. “I was uncool before uncool was cool” – pretty much speaks for itself. “Hard Rock Cafe” I’ve only been to one, in Boston… with the Girl Scouts. Did I mention the uncool? The last, on the bottom right, is a little mouse-outfitted creature with a tiny sign that says “I bite” – and I think it is fairly telling that this is not the only button saying that, that I have. The other is silver, proclaiming it in stark black lettering.

Fluid assistance, heating and cooling. Two bottles, similar in size and shape, but containing very different fluids meant for VERY different purposes.

Like duct tape and WD-40 - one makes things go, the other makes things stop.

Not to be used in conjunction. EVER.

On the left we have a bottle of Hot Cherry Motion Lotion, which I’ve been meaning to get a bottle of anyway, so I’m pretty tickled to have found this one. It’s got that fake cherry flavor you expect of cherry hard candies, and cough syrup, but goes hot to the tongue (or other parts) in a way that neither does… unless maybe you have a cherry cinnamon candy. That might do it. On the right, we have a bottle of a soothing topical analgesic, which is to say a lightly painkilling lotion. It came in a do-it-yourself waxing kit that I couldn’t get the hang of and chucked out pretty quick, but I kept this in case of razor burn and the like. I’m finding the storage juxtaposition of these two things fairly amusing.

Medals. One of them is mine, one of them is not; both are for achievements in very different areas of expertise, one largely physical and the other largely mental.

Shoot them all - FOR SCIENCE!

Ooh, shiny.

The medal on the left is my fathers; the top flipped down, so one is unable to read the specifics. Dated 1971, it is the third place medal for prone position shooting. The medal on the right, in the box, is dated 20 years later, but on the back also where one cannot read. It’s engraved back there with “1992” and “Battelle”, which is undoubtedly , which has a location in my hometown. Given that I was 11 at the time, and therefore in 6th grade, coupled with the fact that on the front it says “SCIENCE,” I conclude that this was from one of the several science fairs I participated in, in middle school.

Stones. More accurately, really, pottery/ceramics. One seems to be handmade, a moon and stars motif edged in a cobalt blue glazing, and with a hole making it clear that it’s meant to be hung; the other is shaped and pinched clay with a black glazed, etched with “courage.”

Everybody wants to get stoned

Worrystone and hanging

I haven’t the foggiest where the moon-and-stars hanger came from. It must have been a gift or hand-me-down of some sort, because while it’s okay for what it is, I can’t imagine ever having paid money for it. The Courage stone, on the other hand, I remember exactly the shop where I bought it from. I was in high school, and there was a free-floating new-agey hippie spiritual type store in the local mall. They had a basket of these worrystones by the counter, and for some reason this is the one I felt compelled to acquire. I don’t generally tend toward impulse purchase very often, but I have found through experience that when I get a really strong draw toward something small like that, it’s usually a good compulsion to which I can crumble. The Courage stone spent a lot of time in my pockets, my fingers curled against the shaped grooves in the back and my thumb sweeping across that glazed, smooth surface.

Dice. 1D6 and 1D8. Roll for initiative! Roll for damage! Roll for how many times you’re allowed to- ….what, doesn’t everyone mix roleplaying into their roleplaying? *blush*

What do you mean, you brought the Wandering Monsters table to bed?

I really should make a bag and collect all my dice into it.

I first played D&D before I was even 10 years old; my older brother came home from a fried’s house with the gaming fire burning hot in his blood. We set up his pup tent in the yard and he spun out a dungeon crawl for me off the cuff with just a pencil and notebook to jot things down. It was fantastic. Where the attraction faded off for him, though, it only grew for me. AD&D, V:tM, M:tG – I’ve played them, and loved them, and when the internet collided with my world I found ways to continue online, where I could connect with people with whom I can’t share the top of a table, but can share the wonders of a mutually imagined and populated world.

Pendants. I have a bunch of these, obviously, some of which I’d forgotten I owned… some of which are going to get chucked in the can pretty fast.

Dangly bits.

Various orphaned pendants.

The open oval on the upper left used to hold something long since lost and forgotten. Next to it is a lovely scrimshaw pendant I had THOUGHT lost, and am very glad to discover still in my possession. The butterfly can be affixed to a new chain now that I know some rudimentary jewelrywork. The turquoise is not at all my style, but antique – I think I shall find it a new owner. The “class ring” necklace is junk, and will be treated as such. As for the little bottle… I actually quite like it, and am pondering the possibility of cork removal and replacement so I can make some use of it.

Actual buttons. There is a variety of them, ranging from small jewel-like glass to large, flat plastic, and a gamut of moded, carved, or bas-relief shapes in between. For a while, I wore them all on a green slouch hat.

Don't push 'em.

My buttons.

My best friend in high school had, of course, a mother – and she had a button hobby. She collected them, sorted them, affixed them in very specific ways to cardboard cards, and entered them in competitions. These are just a few of the many castoffs she had that didn’t fit satisfactorily in any of her collections, and I quite enjoyed having them. Looking at the now, I know I can make use of at least one of them on a single-button blazer that is missing a button… and two of them have a spinning wheel on them. I want to figure out some way to incorporate one or both of those into a gift for my mentor, the woman who taught me spinning, and who calls me her mini-me. Also pictured is a thick lobster-clasp chain bracelet that adorned the hat along with the buttons, and three odd rings – a brightly colored enamel flower, a heavy iron cross, and one festooned with dangling metal circles that is sort of like a belly-dancer’s belt.

Actual pins. Some friends of mine just put up a performance of the musical 1776,, and as such I want to make some sort of theatrically geeky joke about salt peter, here.

He plays the violiiiiiiin!


The one along the bottom is the only one I am certain has nothing to do with school whatsoever; it was a gift passed along to me from my high school best friend when she was cleaning out her jewelry box. Above that to the left is a stone, of indeterminate sort. If pressed, I would guess some type of jasper. The other three in that row are for Color Guard (which I singlehandedly kept from dying – at one point there were a couple games where I was the only flag girl on the field with the band during halftime), Chorus (I was involved in choir and show choir, as well as all the musicals) and… while I don’t think the microphone pin was specifically relevant, it’s fairly obvious I was into vocal performance. Top row left is my National Honor Society pin; top row right… I’m really not sure. It’s engraved with “200” in the middle of the scroll. I want to say it has something to do with Academic Decathlon, but I just really cannot be sure.

There are, aside from all this, a few loose green seed beads and a couple of safety pins, before hitting the bottom of the box. This took a lot longer to go through than I expected, for a small thing filled with small things… but I feel unexpectedly accomplished, and am definitely looking forward to going through the other boxes in the same way. So many memories packed into such tiny treasures.

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