Each and every day I am amazed by the things my young friends are doing even as they struggle to adapt to the life-changing pandemic of COVID-19. Giving therapy online to despondent clients. Tending to arraignments online. Completing degrees online. Teaching law students online. Getting startup ventures to market online. Reading to housebound seniors online. Organizing moms to testify before EPA online.
Then there’s the offline activity, and I’m discovering talents in my friends and family I never knew existed. They are baking perfect sourdough loaves in Dutch ovens. Knitting baby blankets for new moms. Building fire pits in the backyard.
And getting creative with boxes.
For many people, delivery of goods has become a lifeline, either on the receiving end, or the employment end. With everything from diapers to dinner ingredients getting dropped off at our doorsteps, there’s lots of cardboard boxes hanging around, lots of them. In fact, ninety percent of our shipped items are packaged in cardboard. As one writer put it, towers of cardboard boxes outside her door, awaiting a trip to the recycling station. Or — ready to get a new life.
A few weeks ago, I started getting charming photographs from my daughter-in-law (above): each day, a discarded cardboard box was given new life as a castle, a boat, a pulley, a birdhouse, or a Wall-e. What to do with a four year old at home, and two parents trading turns at doing their jobs and minding him? Much to the delight of my grandson, building something out of a cardboard box has engaged his curiosity and creativity.
The cardboard box-building binge brought back lots of memories from my childhood. Regardless of race, gender or class, the ability to transform a common cardboard box into something wonderful was the real display of creative genius. Who needs a shiny new slide when all the cool kids were sledding down a grassy slope in an appliance box, whose bottom we had somehow waxed? Whether it was building a dollhouse out of cardboard, or fort hiding under the dining table, you didn’t throw cardboard boxes away until they had gotten second, third, and fourth lives. In the 1960s, the New York Times reported, “… cardboard was considered such a wonder material … that Manhattan’s Museum of Contemporary Craft devoted a 1967-68 exhibition, “Made with Paper,” to the medium.”
And even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, I’m reminded of that fun through the eyes of my grandson. He is, like all of our children, a glimpse of what tomorrow can bring. And I’m proud that he’s discovering fun new ways to repurpose, reuse and rebuild in the midst of chaos. I challenge all of us to follow his lead, starting with a simple cardboard box. So, in honor of all the cardboard that brings us food, medicines, appliances, and whatever else we aren’t going into stores to buy, let’s build, create, and have a little fun!