The Heart Box

Each Valentines Day that I was able to see Granny (Lexie) she would buy for me a heart box of candy and have it waiting for me when I would arrive. I knew this box was not only given out of true, abiding love, but out of sacrifice. For Granny did not have great wealth in terms of money, but she would do her utmost to give to me, from her heart, every opportunity that she had. This heart shaped box of candy was worth it’s weight 1,00,000,000 times over to me in gold.

Visitations with Granny were all too short for my little heart. Once I was permanently placed with Papaw (Bob) and Mamaw (Delphia) at age seven I would see Granny only once a month, I had Friday night, Saturday and would be picked up on Sunday. My heart ached for Granny and Aunt Em. I hated leaving them, I only wanted to be where I knew I was deeply cherished. So when Granny gave me something I too cherished that gift with every ounce of my being. It meant more than just a little box of chocolates to savor for a moment. It was my Granny’s heart revealed unto me, tangible and evident.

The heart box of candy that came on Valentines Day was shared between me, Granny and Aunt Em. I never ate the entire box in one sitting and I always shared with them. They didn’t want the candy, they would never take anything from me, but they knew I wanted to share with them, so they would take whichever piece I picked out for them, knowing I wanted to see them happy as well.

The one box that I loved and remember the most was a medium sized heart covered across the top in a strip of white lace with a red rose attached to it. I had been given two others in the past, I didn’t always get to see Granny on Valentines Day. This particular box I had to hold closely to me, even closer than anything else I had ever been given by Granny. Most of the time I never took anything back to Papaw and Mamaw’s with me, for I knew it would be destroyed.

The other heart boxes of candy were each destroyed. The candy that was left was taken, eaten by Mamaw, then the box was thrown into the coal burning stove in the kitchen. “That’s a bunch of garbage to pile up my house now little girl,” Mamaw would say with disdain and venom. Her house could only be piled up with HER garbage, her trinkets and what nots.

I could have nothing,

I deserved nothing,

Mamaw would see to it that if I cared about something it would be desecrated with all the vial affection she could muster to see to it that I would hurt. Mamaw wanted me to love only she and if I so much as showed that I cared for a person or thing that thing would be gone and that person would be talked about like a dog, as if they were nothing short of the most wretched person alive and in times of anger she would hiss at me “and you’re just like them!”

I was stupid enough to take my Pac-Man Big Wheel to Papaw and Mamaw’s from Granny’s. I didn’t know any better, but have hated myself for my choice for years. I rode it one time the weekend I brought it home, went to school the following Monday, came back and it was gone. Mamaw had me believe that it was stolen from the carport though I had just seen it sitting where I had left it, under the carport. It was, just as every other cherished item Granny would give me, either destroyed, given away or taken to the dump.

I began to figure out what Mamaw was doing and had to devise ways of hiding what I cared about if I wanted to bring something from Granny’s. Mamaw had taken my most precious Peaches and Cream Barbie doll, one I thought I had hidden well from her in my innocence and naivety. I never saw my Barbie again, I searched the entire house thinking I had misplaced her. I KNEW where I put her, I KNEW it, but no manner of asking would have Mamaw admit what had occurred. She would just stare at me, stone faced, it mattered not how hard I cried. It broke my heart, because that was the prettiest, most special doll I had ever seen and it was a gift from Granny that meant her money, her time and effort to give something to me that I would adore and it was destroyed.

So what should I do? How could I protect The Heart Box? My little heart was bound and determined to keep the box, to have it, to hide it. A child should not have to be afraid of their caregiver. While Mamaw did not physically abuse me, she tortured me mentally. As a child I was meant to trust that she loved me, would protect me and be there for me when I was in need. Instead, she chose to break every ounce of trust I could have in her as often as she possibly found cause. In her stubborn arrogance she didn’t see that what she was doing was driving me far from her rather than drawing me near. She wanted any reminder for me of another person whom I could love to be vanquished. I did love her, she couldn’t see it, for she required all the attention, praise and glory, but I was too afraid of her to do little more than simply obey her every command to clean, to cook, to carry, but she never sought my arms. Where was her box of candy for me, her doll, her forethought in trying to show me she cared. Where were the kisses, hugs and love? She thought in giving me a roof over my head and food was enough to sustain me, that it was enough to prove her love. NO!

The Bible says “But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 Part of that word is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Matthew 7:12 Sadly, Mamaw could not see this, not ever.

So before leaving Granny’s I wrapped the box in the clothing I had worn the day before and tucked it inside a plastic Piggly Wiggly bag. I knew as soon as Papaw brought me back through the doors of Mamaw’s house she would tell me to “take them filthy rags and put them in the hamper to be washed.” I managed to tuck the heart into the hamper, knowing we wouldn’t wash the clothes on a Sunday. Then at my first opportunity I took the heart box and found a hiding place for it. There, in the very farthest back room of the house was a long three tiered shelf full of Mamaw’s collections. It sat low to the ground, butted up nearly equal to the golden colored carpet on the floor. It was never moved, nor could it be for the other dressers and shelving that sat around it. There I gently and with love placed the heart box as far as I could tuck it back underneath the shelf.

There were many times I would find myself longing for Granny and Aunt Em. It was then I would go as quietly as a mouse to the back room and to the hiding spot. I would slide the heart box out from under the shelf and I would look at it, tears would begin to stream down my little face. I would take that heart and hold it next to mine, both arms wrapped around it as tightly as possible, then I would cry out for Granny and Aunt Em. There behind the shelf was a large picture window facing the road, draped in long, dark curtains. I would move back part of the drapes and look out at the road, reach one hand out while holding the box and weep bitterly, but silently until my throat felt as though it would close. I cried so hard from time to time that I felt I would collapse. I simply needed true love.

I never removed that candy box, even after I left Mamaw’s. That place where it hid away and held my tears seemed too special. I couldn’t bear to take the heart away from the place where it was kept safely for so long. I knew it would never be discovered as long as Mamaw lived, because she was beyond the age of moving furniture and I, her worker, was not there to move it for her.

The Heart Box of Candy means more to me every year that Granny and Aunt Em are gone. When I see them each February I think of them both. I think of my time in the back room longing for their love and now that I am grown I can look at the boxes and think of the love and find comfort in now sharing a Heart Box of Candy with my sweet boy. I tell him the story of what it means, what it signifies to me, then I give him the sweets to enjoy. I tell him “remember that this box means I took time to show you I love you, that I thought of you today and that I want you to be happy and know that Momma is always in your heart and you are in hers.”

My son and me.

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