Every so often I pull the shoebox from my closet, usually when it falls on my head as I’m looking for something else. Unavoidable scrutiny rises from contents spilled on the floor. My shoebox isn’t in the best of shape, it never occurrs to me to find a sturdier, more suitable box. I prefer to tape it up, return the treasure and slide it back on the shelf.
Shoebox contains letters – 50 years of hopes, dreams, heartache, and best wishes. The better part of life falls on my head from a dusty duct taped box. I don’t read them, feel remorse or contemplate any life other than the one I have. If anything I worry about what others might think if something happened to me and they found my shoebox. As my children grow older I worry less and less about misunderstanding or judgement. My husband may not even realize the shoebox exists but would cherish the contents as much as I do – our youth lives in that box.
Mostly I look at the handwriting; the author instantly recognizable by the slant of their pen. Handwriting is comforting; a gift in ways tweets, texts, and emails could never be. My shoe box lives and breathes with every stroke of the pen, every word hand crafted and immortal. My shoebox may be tattered and dusty yet the contents whisper for all eternity.
Canadian schools are dropping cursive writing from the curriculum. Aside from obvious issues like signing your name when opening a bank account, passport, or back of a credit card – shoe boxes will only be half full. Before long no one will even remember what it felt like to open an envelope – memories will live in a “cloud” not a closet. The world just won’t be the same without shoe boxes falling on our heads.
Human nature feeds on blame. It wasn’t my fault, childhood sucked, family let me down, I’m mad as hell, no one understands, it wasn’t supposed to be this way, how dare you question me.
Blame is second nature, judgement our hammer. Someone else is always at fault – “you cheated”, “you lied”, ” you were wrong”. Blame is simpler than understanding. Blame doesn’t excuse mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers who dare to be human. We pigeon hole family to fit roles prescribed by society, cast blame when it blows up in our face. Nothing is ever our fault, someone else is always to blame. Life is short, why waste it on blame? Life has so much more to offer once blame is laid to rest.
It occurred to me that vanity should perhaps be the test by which we gauge human evolution. Rather than constructing a timeline of civilization based on flints, tools, and the written word – ponder the evolution of vanity. At what point did early man begin to care about his appearance? Sticking a pin in that moment will solve the riddle of when our known history began.
We became truly “human” when we caught sight of our reflection, and frowned. That frown was the stepping stone to separate mankind from all the other species in our world. Animals groom, humans improve, embellish, and alter. Some animals developed outlandish characteristics to show off during mating season, they never looked in a mirror to see whether they looked fat or silly. The evolutionary leap for mankind was that critical eye, and with it an awareness of trend and opinion. Characteristics that plague us to this day.
Ancient Roman practices of lightening hair with pigeon poop, applying bear grease to stop baldness, wearing a paste of ground herbs and worms to cover gray hair, rinsing your mouth with imported urine from Portugal – Botox injections, Retin A Lap Bands, white strips…..
The moment “keeping up appearances took hold, we were human. Find the first mirror and you’ll find the cradle of civilization.