outside, inside, and with the box


I have this habit of rearranging the furniture in moments of transition, and I am in such a moment now. A couple of nights ago, my daughter and I changed out the old makeshift night stands that had been holding up the lamps and books by the side of my bed with a couple of new night stands, inexpensive and cute and long overdue in that very unfinished space. I took the time to sort through my unwieldy stack of things to read, I found a home for the various notebooks in progress that have congregated by my nighttime side, I sorted the pens and barrettes and headphones that have gathered there, too. It’s neater and nicer around there now, and I have the satisfaction of imposing order on one little corner of my world. Right now, that feels like a lot.

Other rooms, beware: you are next. Imposing this order feels very good.

And it’s the season — spring cleaning. Cleaning up, reorganizing, making room.

Right in time, we received, a few days ago, a box at our doorstep. It contained boring household goods — things for scrubbing and washing and taking care, not the sort of things that would particularly interest the children (even as I am in the process of making a chore chart that will, in fact, involve these very goods, interesting or not). While I emptied the box, the children stood at attention, waiting. Not for what was in the box but for the box itself. Last item out, and soon the little one was in, waving the flaps like wings. They sized up the box, they walked around it, they tipped it over and turned it on its side, they got the markers and other art supplies and proceeded to do their very important work, their making and remaking, around the corner from where I was doing some ordinary thing. And then rather suddenly the box had a window and drawn-on wheels and its wings were strong enough for flying and a propeller (my son) guided the pilot (my daughter) through the house with a whoosh! She was delivering mail, by air, in her custom plane: car wash coupons in the bathroom sink, the neighborhood newspaper on my daughter’s pillow, a Boden catalog (dreamy!) situated in my closet, on my shoes.

As so often has happened at holidays and birthdays past, the box turned out to be a most exciting thing. Also: what I thought had arrived at my door was only part of the story.

I learn more from my children than I learn anywhere else, that is undeniable. And the what I learn is often very surprising and challenging and even a bit hard to nail down, because so often what I notice and feel and understand from hanging around them does not fit neatly into the various rules I’ve learned elsewhere along the way. But this particular moment stands out to me as I move through a personal and professional transition, trying to be brave and excited but also wanting to control every darn detail, wanting to know very much what is arriving and what exactly I am opening. They worked with — played with! — the unexpected that arrived, seizing the moment and the materials and making something new, and maybe that is always our challenge, or at least is now, mine: to not just move things around, but to remake and create out of what I have and what is still headed my way.