You probably get the picture by now. I'm an 'enmeshed' parent who loves too much. Please see blog five and blog eleven. A symptom of this dysfunction is that I often send him stuff. Most often I send a card with a cheerful cartoon of a viking, or an airborne pirate or a cheeky child vampire; something to break the week up. It's better than email. I've chosen it, written on it, licked the envelope, and now it's physically there with him. Perhaps sub-atomic particles are leaving my fingers and travelling to him by Royal Mail. We are touching through the post. Every so often, a card with its micro-particle contact is not enough, and I put something in a box. These are cheap glittery boxes that I buy from the Scandinavian chain, Tiger. They are probably a bit bigger than a shoe box. I fill them with biscuits, sweets, lollies, stickers, popping candy. Once I thought it would be fun to pop in a brain: life-sized, made of foamy rubber.
His response: 'Why did you send me a brain?'
My reply: 'I dunno. It fitted in the box.'
It would appear that there is nothing that eleven and twelve year-old boys like more than a shoe-sized box. When the boxes arrive, there is a clamouring, apparently, not for the contents, but for the box itself. In fact, the demands are so persistent that I might see if Amazon - our ersatz grandparent (please see blog eleven!) - will dispatch enough empty shoeboxes to keep all the boys in his cohort equipped, and happy.
Of course I can't help but speculate why there is a premium attached to such a simple object. This is a surprise to me. I don't think I was ever a child more interested in the packaging than in the content. I am sure that I was never the child in the urban myth who ignored the gift, so that the box could be a boat, or a rocket, or a train. Even now, I enjoy a Toblerone because of the mix of honey, and almonds and chocolate. The prism shaped box bores me. In fact, I am much happier now you can buy Toblerone pieces wrapped separately in a packet - save me the hassle; I can eat them faster and the box just got in the way. And, let's face it, when wielded with enough force, the cardboard edges can be a bit dangerous.
The ballet boys live together. Every waking hour is spent in each other's company and - a bit like livestock- they are herded together during sleeping hours too. So why, in these conditions, might a box become such a desired object?
I imagine that when so many boys are living together, and all their stuff is literally and figuratively spilling out into the room: hair product, toiletries, pens, phone chargers, rivalry, home-sickness and angst; there is a need to have it all contained. What could be more useful or more attractive than a glittery shoe-box? It is portable, practical and adheres to William Morris' principal to never own anything that isn't both useful and aesthetically pleasing. Within a box, any mess can easily be concealed; order can be maintained; items of value can be secured. The boys' lives in the dormitory are always visible - there is no time or space to hide or rest, so a box affords them a place of privacy and a chance of secrecy. When the lights are on and the noise levels are high, they know that there is a place where it is still dark and quiet, and a tiny part of them is nestled safely within. Their innermost psyche is safe. The lid fits.
I fully understand why, with all the pressures of boarding school life and the discipline of ballet, a box has such high valiue.
It's also a really good place to keep your sweets.
Next time I am going to write about the expensive seats.