I should have listened to the little voice saying "No, silly girl, leave that box there on that shelf." Alas, I did not, and that box that's been on a shelf in the very back corner of my parents basement came home with me last weekend.
I'd peeked at it before, but always had the sense to just leave it mostly alone. It had been on that shelf since the fall of 2003 when I left Wisconsin.
So last night, I opened a bottle of red, settled in on my bed, and I opened that box. Oh Pandora.
First cuts are indeed the deepest, aren't they? I still look back at that time with that man and feel deeply appreciative, and deeply sad for how we hurt each other. We were each others first real loves. In the box were some photos, a dog tag, some post-it love notes, and the St. Michael necklace his mother gave me.
Mostly though, there were letters. So many letters. Did I have any idea how special it was to get so many letters? To have a man that wanted to put on paper how he loved me, how he wanted me, how he'd never felt like this, that he'd always love me? The beauty of it is that I know he meant it, just like I did. It was the first time, it lacked the scars and cynicism that we all carry into any subsequent relationship. We weren't afraid to write the most ridiculous, corny, over-the-top bits to each other, because we weren't experienced enough to have the eye-rolling response that would mostly likely result from that now.
There were letters from a few states and a few countries, over a few years. I had printed out our emails because I remember not being able to have them in my email anymore, but not wanting them to disappear. Some of the letters had "free" marked where the stamp goes and came from an FPO address. There is a card that was written on the back of an MRE box and taped together. His parents got one just the same. They keep it in a frame on their wall.
What was hard about it is not that it happened, or that it ended, but I never felt real closure. I still don't. I don't know if that's because it was real and wonderful (until it was horrible) and he was really wonderful to me, and he really did love me like crazy, and I was the one that first ended it, or maybe it's because you just don't with your first. Maybe none of that?
Next time I go home, I will bring this box with me. There's a spot for it, in the very back shelf in my parents basement. One day in a few years I will open a bottle of red, open the box, and think "Oh, to be young and in love..." and smile.