Tag Archives: Marx Brothers

This Is Not a Box

A couple of years ago one of the boys received the book “This is Not a Box”, a simple story about the power of imagination and its ability to turn an ordinary cardboard box into just about anything. For better or worse, I tend to be a more pragmatic in my approach to most things in life and less imaginative and fanciful; more real-world, less “Where the Wild Things Are”. This may help explain why in the summer of 1984 my friends and I took a large, ordinary cardboard box, laid it out on the Paguyo’s front lawn, and break danced (debatable) while listening to “Hard Times” by RUN-D.M.C. But now that I have children I’ve glimpsed myself moving just a little toward the realm of make-believe, the most recent example coming as a direct result of handwriting.

The original: Run DMC in their famous leather tracksuits pictured in Paris

My son Emmett is horsengoggle-crazy about soccer. He eats, drinks and brushes his teeth with it. Two weeks ago when I picked him up at his best pal’s house, another zealot, the friend was sitting contentedly, writing a story at the kitchen table while Emmett watched (American) football with the pal’s older brother. The story goes that the pal is planning to publish the story(ies) and use the proceeds to purchase soccer cards, which are similar to my old baseball cards, although now the kids don’t keep them in those long, rectangular cheese boxes and the players don’t have cool names like Bake McBride or Richie Zisk.

Now, Em’s a smart little guy but he doesn’t write stories very often and he doesn’t have any soccer cards. Aha. Practical Nick thought that this could be a great opportunity to get Emmett writing and I could use the soccer cards as the carrot. However, since Em does most of his homework and spelling at the kitchen island, which is also where our family spends most of its considerable energy, I decided he needed a desk in his room; his own scholastic sanctuary apart from life’s din.

A week later the desk arrived in a very large box and thus far Emmett has remarkably produced two stories – maybe publishable, maybe not – which is impressive given the Thanksgiving weekend was a full and rich one for us. But Imaginative Nick also had a brief appearance thanks ¬†to that very large box. The empty box was in the garage ready to be recycled and thanks to the “This Is Not a Box” book, I imagined I could put the box into Em’s bedroom, which is getting so crowded it reminds me of the stateroom scene from the Marx Brothers’ “A Night at the Opera”, and make a fort out of it. Go figure.

After I got the box upstairs into his room, I cut a couple holes in it and then just kind of let them run with it. Thankfully, the boys do have the imagination chromosome and before I knew it they were hard at work drawing on the box turning it into a theater, drawing and coloring stick puppets, and were so happy doing so they didn’t object when Beatrice, my 1-year-old, ¬†wandered – and stayed – backstage for a long time. So far we’ve been treated to two plays – both completely unpublishable – and my hunch is there are more to come.


The box has been a small and unexpected gift which came about because of handwriting, the boys’ imaginative use of it clearly came from their mother, and I’m thankful for all of it, especially so this time of year.