All you really need in life is a box and some tape.
“No! Don’t recycle, Mom! I need them.” The stack of Amazon boxes reminds Declan of Christmas. I scowl–forty rainforests died because I ordered a few glass bottles.
I love the magic of Amazon, it’s the packaging I feel guilty about. Push a button, things arrive. Things I want, things I need, things I don’t yet know I need but somehow, they’re at my door.
I compare the size of each box to the small bottles inside, each of which is packaged in yet another white box. They remind me of Russian matryoshka dolls–box within box within box. “A little overkill.”
“Mom!” I haven’t replied. The boy gets louder every second I pause. “Can I have these!?”
A pause is silence and silence equals consent. He tears the room apart, tossing bubble wrap and plastic air pillows, dumping contents aside.
“Hey!” I say. “That’s fragile!”
“I don’t need these, I need the boxes.” He cleans each box fast–the contents are a distraction.
Declan is the kind of kid who sees possibilities in garbage, creating miracles out of dust. A block of clay becomes an army of creatures. Mud is a village. Who knows what the boxes will be?
“Put the bottles in my room,” I say. The boxes are no longer mine, but I’d like to keep the things inside.
Drop. A bottle hits the ground–a bounce, not a smash–a good sign. The bull hasn’t broken any china.
“Careful! They’re glass! Respect my things!” He can only respect the boxes, which are priceless. They’re transforming into big things in his mind.
“What are you making?” I ask.
“A castle. I’m gonna live here.” He already has a one-room box house stuffed with his favorite things. I made a door large enough to pass Oreos through. “My own house,” he said. He was happy as a clam living in that cardboard box.
When you’re eight, life doesn’t get better than stuffed zombies, the iPad, and Oreos.
But it’s human nature–when we get the things we want, we always want more. “It’s time to make my house bigger,” he said.
The Amazon boxes are gift from God.
“Be careful–if you don’t start doing your schoolwork, you’ll be living in that box for real.” He hates school. He got his first D.
“Really?” That’s the best news he’s heard all day. I’ve given him the incentive he needs to stop doing the little schoolwork he still does. “D means delightful, and it’s not an F,” he said. A third-grade storyteller, a marketing genius, a negotiator.
And all he wants to do is to live in a box.
I watch him pile the boxes–five giant boxes form the main hall of the castle, with the little boxes becoming accents and turrets. He scours the house for tools of the trade–scissors, a knife, packing tape. Then, he starts slashing, stabbing, and taping like a madman.
“I broke your scissors, Mom.” I volunteer to apprentice before he knifes himself in the leg. I cut the holes and rip pieces of tape.
“Clean up these boxes, throw them in your room,” says Dad. If it were up to Declan and I the house would be swallowed in clutter, despite our best efforts to clean. Gentrification threatens to kill his castle.
“It’s not a box, it’s a castle! I LIVE there.” I apply for special dispensation. This castle is keeping him away from the computer, it’s imagination come to life. It grows longer and higher by the day.
“Mom,” Declan says.
“Can you please order more stuff? I need more boxes.”
I don’t need anything at the moment. I’m sure Amazon will suggest something I might need soon and I’ll get some new boxes then. Meanwhile, I’ll stop at the liquor store and pick up reinforcements.
“Let’s take a break,” I say. “We’re out of tape.”
“Get some. Go now.” Even an eight-year old knows Prime takes two days.
“Tomorrow.” I tell him. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
He doesn’t know much about Rome, because he doesn’t read his schoolwork, but he does know about Minecraft. He goes to build a castle in his digital world for a little while before bed.
I tell him about the olden days before Minecraft.
“That sounds awful,” he says. “My idea of hell.” He likes that he got away with saying “hell.” I like that he’s building, creating, doing, and seeing the future in his little mind, even if he doesn’t do his math papers all the time.
I hope he will be part of building a great future, that no one will tell him, “no,” or “you can’t,” and that he’ll build his boxes to the sky, happy as a clam, in a world he helped create.
That is what I wish for him–that his box be his castle, all the days of his life.