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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Bookends (01/30/14)

TITLE: Out of the Boxes
By Anita van der Elst


We walk through the sawdust laden woodworking shop, Keith’s tiny dog, Angelo, barking his ownership alongside us but just out of reach. Keith calls him back from following into the back room. He sets up a flood light so we can see into the corners. Yes, there they are—the file boxes we stored here six months ago.

“Those,” I say, pointing at the banker’s boxes with my name on them. “See, I marked them clearly. Creative Arts, Writing Projects, Personal History.” My husband moves other boxes so he can get to them.

“Let’s look inside,” he says. “Make sure they have what you want.”

We lift lids but I already know they do. My mind shifts back as I remember packing…

Being a small book, there is just enough space to slide Room to Write into the filing box at the end. I settle the upended metal bookends on top, their bottoms flat against the tightly packed books, their backs sliding down inside the box. Sitting back on my sore haunches, because that’s what packing for a move does to someone my age, I plop the lid on the box. The sound of the black felt pen as I list the contents on the box makes my skin crawl. Ugh, almost dry. How many boxes have I jotted on for how many moves in the past eight years? But I’m not about to buy new felt pens now. This is the last time I will make a move as major as this one, I tell myself.

I look at these last three boxes. My trove of creative writing treasures. One box has books that I go to for help on how to write, or to get my creative juices flowing. One contains my own personal history—journals, letters, birth certificate, genealogies from three parts of my family tree. I wonder if I’ll ever know the story of the fourth. The last is a collection of stories, poems, and meandering musings that have found their way, from my heart and the circular place my brain can be, out through my fingers, sometimes conveyed onto paper with pen, but more often with keyboard on laptop and then spewed out my printer.

I think of where I’m moving—the beautiful Pacific Northwest…a place that serves as the bookends to my life. If I could carve a set out of wood, one bookend would feature farmlands, where I was born and raised, and Bellingham, where I shopped and worked as a young woman. The other would showcase majestic Mount Baker, and maybe a Dutch windmill, as the place God has chosen for my husband and me to reassemble our lives. In between the two, my thirty years in southern California, a series of adventure, romance, joys and loss, with new understanding gained…

It takes awhile to settle in after a 1,300 mile move. Even though we down-sized before loading the Penske travel truck, our small apartment necessitated a portion of our belongings be stored elsewhere. The boxes, now retrieved, gape at me. Not a lot of space for placing the contents on bookshelves but somehow I will make do. I feel like a large part of my life has been restored. Lifting out the bookends, I begin to get reacquainted with who I am.


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This article has been read 255 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Linda Goergen02/08/14
Moving can be so unsettling, sometimes we need something—just a certain thing—to anchor us again. Like how the bookends and books did that for you. Enjoyed the read.
Robyn Burke02/08/14
Written with such clear emotional detail, I felt I was there along side of you as you lived, packed, moved, and re-discovered. (Perhaps I was in spirit-- us creative, writer types are like that right?)

Not knowing why your boxes are being stored in a carpenters workshop might make one wonder how Keith and Angelo fit in, though the details really enhance the story.

While I am familiar with the Pacific Northwest and the cities and landmarks you reference, I wonder if those not familiar might be distracted? If we are writing for the unknown reader do we want to make sure our references are easily understood regardless of our familiarity or not? I'm not sure. Maybe it doesn't matter. On this I am not an expert by any means! I think we want to capture the moment with enough detail that the reader really does feel like they know exactly where this woodshop is, why your boxes are stored there, what Mt Baker and Bellingham really are.....does that make sense?
Robyn Burke02/08/14
oops, hit enter before I was done. I wanted to add that I very much enjoyed this and am happy to know you are re-united with your treasure trove of creative writings. I understand that feeling very well! Welcome home and keep on writing!!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/13/14
Congratulations on ranking 34 overall!