Yesterday was indeed a red-letter day at the Crosses. We started the whole pandemic thing in March of 2020, like everyone else. We cancelled all sorts of things in our lives, from concerts to eating out to simply shopping in stores – just like the rest of you. We lived life pretty safely, because we simply didn’t know what might be lurking around the corner, ready to grab us and make us sick in a way we had never experienced before. Sure, Cheri continued to go to work, but has worn a mask every day as she sees to patients. However, the coming home and spending time meant we had to do things differently than just running out to the mall or shopping for clothes, or getting other things.
Enter on-line ordering. Like millions of others, we turned to what we might need. Christmas, birthdays, even Valentine’s Day turned out to be ordered merchandise, much to the on-line retailers’ joy, I’m sure. Add to that the dozens of jigsaw puzzles ordered and put together and taken apart, and you end up with a lot of “stuff,” to be sure. And all that “stuff” came to our front door step in a handy cardboard box, of all different shapes and sizes. Just recently, Adam ordered a new office chair for his basement office/bedroom while he still works from home. The box was massive, and sat for a few days in the living room, as we thought the cats might like to play in it. Fact was, it was too big for them to hide in, so we finally broke it down, and took it over to the cardboard recycle dumpsters that the city provides.
Hence came the light bulb of an idea from Cheri. She is off work this week, which means she can hardly sit still and just enjoy some relaxing time – it’s sort of like the toy I got for Christmas a couple of years ago. It was a big plastic orange snake with wheels on the bottom. When you would turn it on, with new batteries, it would slither at top speed around the kitchen, looking terribly lifelike, and just never stop moving. Now, Cheri is in no way a snake, but she is in perpetual motion. The idea? Don’t you think it’s time we go down into the basement storage and break down all those boxes we have put down there after ordering something this past year or so, and then take them as well over to recycling? Wouldn’t that be fun? Then, of course, we would have room down there, for some reason.
Cheri is the true love of my life, but she is relentless. I put her off over Father’s weekend, just because I could, but yesterday morning, she woke with visions of broken down boxes dancing in her head. I woke up needing a nice big cup of coffee, but of course, she had been up a good two hours before I was. So, after a reasonable time at the dining room table, downstairs we went with knife and scissors in hand to dissemble all the boxes lying in wait under the stairs.
There were a lot of boxes. There were dozens of boxes. Some of them were massive sized monsters, with lots of other little boxes hiding inside. Of course, every one of them had two separate address stickers on them. We make a habit of not leaving those on the boxes when we toss them for some reason, and so beyond breaking the cardboard down, we also had to hunt down and remove the stickers before the box could go on the pile of to-be-dumped cardboard.
I’m sure that NASA and the US military could make great use of the adhesive found on the back of those address stickers. I imagine you could assemble an entire automobile using only that glue, and it would hold together for a cross-country trip. Now and then, we would find a sticker that actually came off in one piece, that you could get a corner loose and just peel off – that was like finding a unicorn. More often, as you went to peel off the sticker, you managed to tear off a good quarter inch square piece, leaving the rest to sit there on the box, giggling and snickering at you. We’d pull and pull and rip and tear and sometimes the best we could do was to just get most of the address off, and call it good. Of course, many of the boxes also for some reason had a secondary address sticker, hidden on another panel. Stinkers. Sometimes the best I could do was to take my knife, and slash the cardboard underneath the sticker and tear off a chunk, hopefully with all the address attached to it.
Well, after an hour or more, or two, we finally came to the end of the pile, still saving the huge boxes that supposedly we were to keep to put the large screen TVs in when the time came to move… someday. What I couldn’t figure out was trying to count the big boxes and match that number up against the TVs currently in the house. It just seemed there were way more boxes that televisions, although that’s all another example of how sometimes it feels like I am just a visitor in our home, and have no real concept of what is in all the different rooms and bedrooms and offices and such. Plus, at least one of our sons never met a new electronic device he didn’t like… or “need,” and each one comes in another box to be saved, like the Ark of the Covenant.
Well, all that remained, of course, was to transport the flattened boxes up the stairs, through the living room, and across the entry way, out the front door (making sure the cats didn’t follow…) and out to the back of the car for a nice little trip over to the recycle spot. I don’t know why I believe that “normal” families will have a box or two to carry, and make that task pretty easy. It’s not that the cardboard is particularly heavy, but it seems that when you take the stickers off and break the box down, it becomes slipperier than a ball of mercury on your palm. Little boxes sneak in between the big ones, and then slide out, usually on the stairs, and ride down to the bottom again, like an amusement park ride. Just when you think you have it all stacked just right, and begin the walk to the car, gravity takes over, and they start to slip, and then you make the mistake of thinking that if you just change your grip, it’ll be fine. There are times when the entire stack falls to pieces, and you are forced to start over again, right at the top of the stairs, where others are coming right behind with their own loads of boxes. It’s not a heartbreak, but it’s close.
We finally got the stuff in the car, and drove over to the recycle spot. I hadn’t realized a change in the dumpsters since we had been there before. They used to be long flat massive steel boxes with plastic lids that you would throw back and then toss the cardboard in. For some reason, the city has purchased some new dumpsters, which are upright. That’s fine, except as you walk over to the dumpster with both arms full of boxes, you quickly realize that you can’t fold the lid back – instead, you have raise and hold the lid up while you thrown stuff in. This means using one arm, and that means all the boxes you were holding have to hit the pavement while you piece-by-piece put one box at a time into the dumpster. The best word to describe that activity is “Arrgh.”
So, after a good morning’s work, boxes are gone, and we indeed have room in the storage room for… something else sometime. The task was complete, and I tried to convince my dear one that perhaps that was enough activity for the day. But no – there was still the mountain of jigsaw puzzles to be sorted and determined which ones are keepers and which ones are give-a-ways. If you need any puzzles, please let us know…
Life seems to be divided into times of collecting, and times of getting rid of. It’s sort of like Ecclesiastes 3, where we read times to keep and times to throw away. It’s part of the cycle of life. I know there are some folks who have that strange ability to live very simply, and probably never even possess a box, but they are the unusual ones. I remember at one church bible study, I asked the question, “If you only had 30 days to live, what would you do?” Some folks talked about traveling, or spending more time with family, or writing their life’s history. One elderly woman said simply, “I’d clean out my basement.” I couldn’t believe that, and I asked her why she would spend her last days on earth cleaning. She replied, “Well the basement is a total mess, and I’m not leaving it to my children to clean out!”
Whatever is your own motivation about your activities and tasks, do so intentionally, and don’t forget to throw in a bit of grace at the same time. Our work should always be flavored with rest, and outside of an urgent emergency, even the most important things can be done over time. Be kind to yourself, and especially kind to others. Let’s not destroy life while trying to make things neater in appearance. Have a great day.
Word for the day: miasma. Pronounced me-AHS-ma. We’ve heard the word before, although its not used in its original form. It comes from the Greek, miainein (lots of “i”s) meaning, “to pollute” The miasma in olden times was believed to be a noxious vapor that would arise out of bad water or swamp or such that would bring an outpouring of a disease-causing cloud.
Today, however, it’s more often used to describe a state of community emotion. There is an overall sense of feeling demoralized, that leads to sadness and depression, sometimes for an entire company or town or other group of persons. We can legitimately use “miasma” to describe the feeling across the world during the pandemic, when it was hard to find most anything that brought joy or energy. Miasma sucks the life out of us – and fills us with illnesses of all sorts. It’s not a happy word, but appropriate to use, sometimes.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.