Locked in My Own Toybox
I remember clearly, even though it was long enough ago to require math. I can narrow it down pretty quickly based on where I lived Kindergarten through 2nd grade. Agreed the incident happened somewhere in the early 80’s. I can’t pinpoint any particular reason that prompted my toybox cleanout. I don’t think I was looking for anything. Looking for something to do I assume and maybe bored of seeing toys the same way. Later on I realize it’s a small part of who I am and how I operate.
Methodically I took out every toy from inside my blue wooden toybox, arranging them neatly on the floor. I felt most excited to see the toybox empty. I still feel a similar excitement when I’m cleaning out a closet or a junk drawer. The endless possibilities of re-arranging and the cleansed feeling of getting rid of things not used. Throwing things away that snuck inside and found a place to hide, feels like a search and destroy mission. Over half of what I bring in the house seems to be an enemy. Accumulation that happens inconspicuously almost always turns into a battle to get rid of. Most people I’ve met have been shocked once they realize how much and overwhelmed at the work that accompanies a purge.
I’m not sure if I had a plan for once the toybox was emptied. I’m guessing the end result came to me right at that moment. Ironically similar to experiences from a million other times in my life. It’s funny to me how sometimes that unplan seems to turn out magical. Other times not so much. The occasional result of the latter overshadowed by the thrill I suppose, the gamble hoping for a big payout.
My lightbulb idea sent me crawling into the dark quarters of the tiny coffin. I was tiny enough to lie down inside and felt for a moment it was one of my greatest ideas so far. By so far, I mean the first five or six years or so of my life. I decided since I fit so nicely inside the box, I would let the top down. I remember feeling clever. I’ve had this reflection for years, but I just had a new thought. My dad was forever hiding from us. His classic time of execution when my mom, sister and I returned home from being out. His purpose was surprise, and ultimate goal to scare us to death. A possible inspiration, but regardless I thought it would be funny that my mom might not be able to find me. I hadn’t given her any communication of a hide and seek game being played. Excited and focused on my new found secret hiding place, I forgot about the large pile of toys outside the box.
Maybe for the same reason I missed the pile of toys clue, I had also neglected to notice the sound of the vacuum cleaner. I heard it loud and clear during the exact moment I heard the metal clank of the latch. There was no actual lock, but the gravity of the wooden top coming down had caused the metal latch on the top to swing down over the little matching metal hook. The hook that shows up on lockers, Insignificant unless a lock is purchased or brought from home. There was no lock needed in this case. I immediately began pushing in an instant effort to reverse time. After my mis-calculated decision making, I realized the top was not opening. Unless someone was on the outside to lift the latch, I would stay there. I was trapped in my self-made coffin. In a split second, once an image of fun and play turned scary horror movie. Ones with kids always seem spookier. Screaming right behind panicked beating underneath the top. In the little space I had to bang, I gave all the energy my little fists had. Nothing. The sound of the vacuum cleaner that I’d overlooked minutes before, now sounded like the music designated for my impromptu funeral.
We lived out in the country. Far enough from town where driveways turn into gravel. It was still close enough to town that we made frequent trips where I envied the cement driveways of other kids. Driveways irrelevant, my point is we didn’t get many visitors. I realize now angels don’t ever go too far away from their post protecting me. A few minutes seemed like days. I was in the panicked state, “I think I’m going to die”. With only a few years of experiences to compare, this seemed for sure like the end.
Just then, I heard a knock on the front door. A random knock by someone stopping by the house was a miraculous turn of events, especially since any visitor was rare. Finally, my mom could hear my banging and muffled screams! I felt a glimmer of relief, a wave of feeling spared, like a hurricane had hit. It was over I was pretty sure, but the landscape slightly altered. Adventure and spontaneity left in tact enough to rebound, but a lesson cemented. Look around, be aware, assess risks and complications. Stick a toe in the water before jumping in. Besides occasionally not adhering to that kind of caution, for the most part that event made an impact. I knew I would be rescued. I was rescued. What stands out more than the cautionary element is the imprint of excitement I see in the bottom of a junk drawer, back of a messy closet, or far off end to a big project that guarantees I never can quite predict the outcome.