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Constructing a beautiful box to hold precious memories


Just what might that box look like? And what goes inside?

by Ken Rummer | Special to Presbyterian News Service

It’s been Ken Rummer’s joyful task to construct six keepsake boxes in time for Christmas. (Photo by Ken Rummer)

A box to put memories in. That’s my current project in the wood shop.

The vision came from a friend who was sorting through her late husband’s drawer of keepings. She wanted to pass some of them on to family, along with a few items she had saved back over the years. 

And she wondered if I would I build a box to put them in. Well six, actually. One for each of the grandchildren. And for Christmas, still six months away.

A box to hold memories — what might that look like? A jewelry box? A pirate chest? A strongbox for the Magi’s gift of gold?

She wasn’t thinking fancy. More along the lines of solid and hard-working, like her growing up on the farm.

We settled on a design inspired by woodworking legend James Krenov. Frame and panel hinged lid. Sides joined at the corners with dovetails. American black walnut for the wood, like the trees they had planted on their farm.

Laying out the parts on the boards with sidewalk chalk. Rough cutting. Jointing and planing. Trimming to size. Joinery. Hardware. Assembly. Smoothing. Applying the finish. The journey of a woodworking project is a path of a thousand steps. 

Cutting to the chase, or to the line (as woodworkers try to do), I delivered the first box, pictured above, last Tuesday. The friend’s response? Tears and a hug.

I still have some work to do before December 25. But as I trim parts to final size for boxes 2-6, I’ve started to wonder what I might put in such a box. What objects of memory might I select to hand on to my children and grandchildren?

Rev. Ken Rummer

From the treasures in my old cigar box, I retrieved some possible candidates: a silver tie clip with my high school mascot on it, commissioner pins from the two General Assembly meetings I attended, a scrap of shirt embroidered with the logo of the Great American Main Street Award our town won with a decade of effort.

I also found two second-place ribbons from the science fair, a Hopalong Cassidy pocket knife, and the Rip Van Winkle sculpture I carved from a bar of soap when I worked on the summer staff of a church camp.

The ribbon I received as a judge for Jesse’s Community Annual Pie Contest was in there, along with an advertising magnet featuring the dog listening to the old Victor record player and recognizing the master’s voice, a classic image that reminds me of my call to ministry. 

No final choices, but it’s a start.

How about you? What would you put in a memory box? 

Are there objects that have the power to make your past present? Are there links to your life you’d like to pass on to those who follow? Stories crammed into a physical form?

While you are thinking that over, it’s back to the shop for me. I have boxes to finish. For the memories.

This piece first appeared Dec. 6, 2019, on the Presbyterians Today blog.

Ken Rummer, a retired pastor, writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail. To find previous posts, follow the link:

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