get better box to the rescue
at last, he’s asked for it. that might mean–after a long stretch of nights on the bathroom floor, after middle-of-the-night calls to the doctor when his hot little body started to shake and could not be stopped, after two rounds of mean nasty medicines–he’s finally coming back with the living.
(i should mention right off that this has nothing to do with the ol’ easter story–that most recent mention around here of a return to the living; rather, this is simply the tale of a boy and a bug and a box that seems to hold magical powers.)
it’s the get better box, and it lives on a shelf in his bedroom. way up high, where only a mama on tippiest toes can get at it, where she’ll blow off the assemblies of dust, lay it down at the side of his bed, or the couch if that’s where he’s stretched.
it’s a box that comes out only on days when there’s nowhere to go, and not much to do, except maybe to gauge the rise and the fall of the mercury there on the stick your mama keeps shoving under your tongue.
it’s a box that in our house is the nearest thing to wizardry, imbued as it is with the pure healing powers of trinkets and bits and thingamajigs. like the doctor’s black bag of long long ago, whatever’s pulled out from its shadowy insides is certain to fix you, or at least to distract you till the fever retreats.
it is all part of the witchcraft of healing a child. four tablets of fever-fighters, washed down with the voodoo of playthings reserved for the sickbed.
whatever it takes, is the mantra of grownups charged with the curing of limp, pallid bodies. of mouths that won’t open even for ice cream, mouths that seem only to moan. of foreheads so hot you worry whatever’s inside will be singed.
why, we wring washcloths and lay them on heads. we draw baths at 2 in the morning. we soothe and we coo and we rub. and all that we get, often, is more of the groaning.
until, at last, at our house, at least, that box is unearthed from the highest of heights.
if you cracked open the lid, peeked just into the shaft of light you’ve let in, you would see there before you an inventory of the ordinary: stickers, and play-doh, and puppets to slip on the tips of your fingers. you would see pencils the size of a toothpick, in a rainbow of colors. and small slips of paper to fold, or to scribble upon. you would see a stone rubbed smooth at the edge of a lake. and a feather or two, plucked from the trees, where a disrobing bird might have left them behind.
what you would not see is the incandescence its contents bring to the face of the boy who, at long last, looks up from his pillow with the faint light of joy there in the black hole of his eye.
it is the first sign of hope, and it comes from the box, i swear on a Bible.
just now i hear humming, clear from the couch. where the boy is at play with a whole troupe of puppets. it’s been nearly a quarter of an hour since he last called my name, which given the most recent days in our house, is quite rather a miracle.
the idea was not mine, nor did i have such a cure-all when i was a child. a dear and wise mother i know, one whose charm was, in good measure, the make-believe world she built for her children, she gave me instructions long long ago, and assured me the powers the squat box would bring.
and then, leaning in, she whispered the part that mattered the most, she insisted.
“when your little one’s better you must, together, take it outside, lay each ingredient in the sun, and explain that the ills are escaping and pure healing sunlight is being absorbed. it is the ritual, as much as the rarity of the box, that makes it so special,” i remember her saying.
ever since, it’s as much a part of our sickdays, as is the rubberband on the glass of the afflicted, and the folded-up washcloth there on the brow.
i can hardly believe i once wore a nurse’s cap on my head, but never had heard of the get better box. only once admitted to the ranks of motherhood, did a mother i love whisper the surest cure in the books. one so certain to cure, it’s not written anywhere.
the sad truth of the get better box story is that the mother who first spelled out its magic is now nursing a daughter with very bad cancer. not all the get better boxes in the world seem to be working. so on this day, when her magic is casting its spell here at my house, i wish and pray i had something to offer to her. i send love. i send light. i send prayer. what healing rituals did you grow up with, or have you birthed for your little ones?
You ask what healing rituals we had when growing up…………..um………uh…………saltine crackers, popsicles and a bell to ring when we were feeling really bad,Oh…..and sips of 7UP, if we were really “lucky”. Nothing as intriguing as a GET BETTER BOX, I think I may go make one for my grownup self. hmm…. what shall I place in it?????ideas?
oh, you know, i think perhaps a get better box to pull out on days when we feel sad or lumpy or down in the dumps….what a FINE idea. the idea of the original is that it be simple things. things rich with imaginative possibilities. thinks that go well with sheets and a blanket. but for our grownup version, i might put in some watercolors. blank pages and a pen (as opposed to a keyboard). a prism. a butterfly net. a flower press. how bout you?
I think my box would contain old Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies, perhaps ‘Pillow Talk’ or maybe even ‘Moonstruck’ … two of my absolute faves. But, come to think of it, I sort of have a box already … I’ve kept all of the greeting cards and notes my friends have sent me through the years. Every now and then I get them out and read them … that always cheers me up when I’m feeling blue.
there is no better healing balm than that of acting beside oneself for the better of another…so, perhaps if the mama knew of what was written today, that she was not alone in her strength for her daughter…i cannot begin to imagine her worry…perhaps a CD made up of music that might soothe, inspire- music mends what no medicine can…lifts and floats for a time, hope.and for the mending ways of my own children’s childhood…always mashed potatoes, those lumpy spuds…and ginger ale, and yes- the bell to be rung, and movies of comfort, like Doris Day, yes…the glass bottom boat. the clearest memory i have for my own children’s comfort comes from tornado threats…going into the cold dark scary basement, the youngest child was more terrified of the “dungeon” than she was of the storm, so whenever we had to go…it became “the palace” with grandma’s blanket acting as a tent and magic candles and arms around shivering little bodies…kind of like a get better box, only she had a palace where she reigned as the princess and all her subjects(brothers and sister)would surround her with loyalty and love. like your little man has with you and your all out attention to his needs, such a good mama, hope he’s feeling cheerier…that sunshine smile on the box sure warmed me right up. take care you two-
once again in sharing a story you have also offered up a prayer. sending your friend of the ‘get better box’ light too.