Growing up, my Dad smoked a lot of cigars. (Well, let’s be honest. He still does.) The image of my father smoking cigars is one of the memories most tied to him in my head.
Along with a cigar habit comes cigar boxes. Lots of empty cigar boxes.
To my seven-year-old self, these boxes were like magic.
Thin, delicate wood. Irregular shapes; never just simply a square box. Curved and bent and swollen in the most interesting ways. Colorful stickers with swirling designs adorning them. Topped with the metallic, majestic, embossed logo of the cigar brand. Intricate gold clasps. And the scent.
Oh, the smell of those boxes.
There’s nothing like it. They’re intoxicating. The lingering smell of fresh wood mixed with that deep, rich, earthly aroma of cigars. Even when I was seven, I could appreciate the smell. I’d open those boxes and close my eyes and breathe in that heady scent.
I found them enchanting.
And so, I collected my most prized possessions in these empty cigar boxes. Notes, receipts, pictures… Anything I thought worthy of keeping, I stashed away in them.
But the thing with cigar boxes is that the more you open them, the more you enjoy what is best about them – the unparalleled scent – the quicker that scent dissipates. So I learned only to open those boxes when most necessary; when I most needed what was inside them.
By stashing them in those cigar boxes, my prized possessions became even more magical. I didn’t want to risk the loss of the cigar box allure. I kept them hidden in the corner of my closet, and would talk myself out of opening them 90% of the time. I’d only lift those wooden lids when I felt it was completely necessary. I refused to compromise my precious items and the scent that was so wrapped up in them.
Twenty years later, it’s no longer things that matter the most to me; it’s memories. I don’t keep cigar boxes full of my most prized possessions…I keep them in my head. Those memories so important, so dear, you fear you’ll wear them out if you think of them too much
You don’t want to open that cigar box of thoughts; you don’t want to let that exotic, ethereal scent escape. You fear that the sheen of those memories will dull if you produce them too often.
Dashing up to the department store with my Nama, a storm raging around us, the wind so fierce our umbrella upturns. But instead of anger or annoyance, we glance at each other and burst into laugher at the absurdity of the situation.
Creeping down the stairs early on a Christmas morning, trying to catch a glimpse of the bounty Santa left beneath the tree.
Sitting at the counter of the old-fashioned soda shop, where we’d go every Saturday and order grilled cheeses, with extra pickles, and slurp down thick milkshakes.
Standing on that stage, tall and proud and so self-assured, hundreds of people listening to what I have to say.
Perched on what feels like the crest of the world, countries away from people I know, in awe of the beauty of the crumbling castle surrounding me, but mostly in awe of my independence and confidence in being there, completely alone.
Run-shuffling away from a party in the dead of winter in Maine, huddled together, so cold our teeth won’t even chatter. Laughing at how pathetic, freezing, and miserable we are. Saying aloud, visualizing, in unison: “We’re on a beach…we’re not in Maine in February…WE’RE ON A BEACH!”
Meandering down the aisles of the grocery store on a perfectly humdrum day, pulling items from the shelves, when he grabs me, looks me straight in the eyes, and says: “I’m so glad you’re here.”
My feet on the dash, Mom in the driver’s seat. On an hours long road trip. Sitting idly in the most comfortable and lovely silence, punctuated by conversation and laughter.
That stolen first kiss in an empty hallway – surprising in what it stirs in me – while friends sit at the bar in the next room, drinking.
Hunkered down at the bar in the dark, dank dive of a place, laughing the hardest I know; surrounded by people who know me to the bone.
Smushed like sardines, smiling, dance dance dancing and yelling along to the live music thump thump thumping so loud we can feel it our chests.
Sipping martinis, then wine at a bar. Ordering salads and steak and plenty of sides; more than enough for two people. Talking business, shooting the breeze. Reveling in the fact that I now consider my Dad a good friend.
Alone on an empty beach, twirling in the surf, listening to music much too loud (and probably bad for my ears).
Those memories are now my cigar box possessions.
Maybe committing some of them to paper, to words, will emblazon them forever and ever in my mind … Hopefully now they won’t lose their sheen, their intoxicating scent quite so easily?
I sure hope so.