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My View: Weathered box holds a lifetime of memories

By Camille Curro Baier

There’s a box in my basement. It’s tan with red and black print, and a big hole in the middle. The box is quite old, but still useful.

It holds my Christmas stable along with all the required angels, people and animals. The stable predates me. The box does not.

I remember when we got it. At Sears Roebuck, with my Dad, buying seat covers  for his new ’52 Chevy. I was 10 years old then. Today I am 74.

And I can’t throw away that box.

Obviously it’s not worth much. It’s the memories it evokes. Dad paid cash for everything. Proudly. No matter how long it took to save the money, that’s what he did.

Each day he’d take the coins from his pockets and put them in a small metal bank. When the bank was full, he emptied it and put the cash into his bank account – a passbook of many pages.

When the pages were sufficiently full, he’d buy a car. That time it was a black Chevrolet. Ever diligent about money, Dad never custom-ordered a car – the red one he really wanted. Instead he took the cheaper, more practical option buying whatever was on the lot when the bank account ripened.

Dad actually hated the color black. For everything, and anything. But black is what he bought when the time was right because that’s what was available to his wallet.

Then he bought seat covers. Not only to protect the cloth seats but perhaps to add a bit of color?

The seat cover box is a bit smelly from age. Still, it has done double duty for many years, enlivening memories of a wonderful man, but also protecting the old family stable, which originally came from a dime store. Like the box, it holds valuable family memories.

There’s a chip on the Virgin Mary’s foot, and the soft silken star that just fit into the crack on the peak of the roof is long gone. I recently took a close look and saw that the four men we always displayed as the three kings and one shepherd are actually two kings and two shepherds!

Worst of all, the cow that watches from the barn window is down to one leg, having suffered a good bit of breakage. It’s great that she has that window to lean on – plus a lot of tissue paper to hold her up, the latter arrangement devised by my son.

Generations. Memories. I can’t trash the stable for a newer model. Can’t even buy a new cow.

I’ve moved five times since that day I went to Sears with Dad. I’ve given away hundreds of books, sold unneeded furniture, donated knickknacks, clothing, children’s toys, and innumerable collections of household “stuff.”

I seriously downsized two years ago. My kids took some things. My sisters and friends, with their own “stuff’ to distribute, smilingly and graciously took the glass baubles I pre-willed to them. I emptied lots of cupboards.

But a tired, old stable with a lame cow still sits beneath our Christmas tree. And the Sears box, broken, ripped and slightly chewed by my demented cat, still engenders Dad at a happy time. It will continue to sit in the basement, protecting the stable that truly should no longer need protecting.

Actually, they seem a good pair, one old friend warmed by the other.

One day, my kids will have little difficulty dealing with these, and all the other, things I cannot disperse. But to me, they keep generations alive and flourishing.

Native Buffalonian Camille Curro Baier, a former Courier-Express reporter, lives in Wexford, Pa., and summers in Chautauqua.
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