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  • It happened again this Christmas. I am not sure what was happening that determined it should be brought up and it doesn't matter. The conversation when any of my sisters are around almost always steers it's way to one of about 50 specially time honoured shared memories. Like the time someone spilled a rootbeer float on me at the Dairy Queen and it was uproariously funny for some reason, or the time my older sister told everyone I was adopted, or the time we were carrying boxes of stuff from our old rented house to our newly purchased house a block away. We were being little jerks as I recall, and my mother was clearly frustrated so of course that meant we should not possibly cooperate and instead walked down the back alley with boxes on our heads, diddling about. I have no idea why some of those things remain so vivid and are continually brought to mind even at the most irrelevant times. As in, someone mentions it being "Boxing Day" and one of the stories is hauled out of someone's mind closet, dusted off, and brought out to look at

    Even in telling the story it is easy to digress into the telling and re-telling, and fabricating new bits that one remembers and one doesn't. I've lost a good five minutes picturing my sister meandering down the gravel back alley with a box on her head and wondering if she would run into something.

    At any rate, this Christmas as we sat around the table laughing and eating, my very own flesh and blood daughter brought up THE story and she wasn't even there to have that memory. It always begins the same way. "Hey! Remember the time Tam went down the hill in a box???"

    We were not well-off when I was a kid and there were us four sisters. That doesn't really have any impact because when I was a kid, there were larger families and most of them were not well off either. We also didn't have a lot of gizmos to make our fun for us so we had to, you know, go outside. A lot.
    In the winter we spent a lot of time tobogganing and making snow forts, skating and anything else we could do to save ourselves from cabin fever. Or else we were kicked outside to save our parents from insanity, either or.

    In the summer time of course, there was bike riding, making forts and clubhouses, playing at the park, swimming and running through the sprinkler. I can not remember a time in recent memory when I have seen kids running through sprinklers. The world needs more of that. We went outside when the sun came up and complained that it wasn't quite dark yet when the sun went down, bartering for a few more minutes of summer air.

    On one of those warm summer days we were discussing, my two sisters and a friend, how it would be really great if you could toboggan in the summer. In no time at all we were gleefully sliding down a very steep hill, sitting on cardboard with the end curled up over our feet, holding on to that edge and pushing off. It was glorious! We spend a long while doing that and I really don't remember why that wasn't good enough, but at some point one of us decided that if a piece of cardboard worked so well, maybe an entire box would work better. No trying to hold on to the end of the cardboard piece as you slid at a break neck pace might be easier on the arms, we thought.

    I have no idea why I always had to be the one to be first, but I remember racing back to the hill with my cardboard box, determined to be the pioneer of dirt hill box racing. Did I mention the part where we lived on the edge of a large valley with steep inclines and lots of rocks and cacti? That was probably an important part to mention, but at this very moment I am wondering if there is some deep meaning to all our family stories that always have something to do with boxes.

    Meanwhile, back at the valley of death as we later came to call it, I hopped in my box, shoved myself off, and from there on I can't say I really remember much of the flight down, but I do remember 'coming to' at the bottom of the hill with a bloody nose and there were stars, I believe, but I was too dizzy to be sure. I also remember a number of cactus thorns embedded in my hands and dirt in every orifice.

    The most vivid memory is hearing my older sister shout " Whoa!!! Are you dead or anything?"

    I remember trying to stand and then, as I wobbled to my legs, the most raucous, start-at-your-toes laughter erupted. I looked at the top of the hill and all of them were holding their stomachs, absolutely dissolved in fits of laughter. Ok, they were not really laughing. They were roaring, a cacophony of peals ebbing and flowing, dying down and then starting up again.
    Oh I suppose it looked funny from their vantage point. They weren't the ones with scratches down both arms, rips in the knee and their wire glasses wrapped incredibly cock-eyed around their ears. They tell me it was poetry in motion, like a tumbling dice, occasionally catching some air as I thumped and bumped arse over tea kettle.

    Today no kid would try that and if they did, most likely there would be knee pads and helmets involved, and quite possibly some industry fabricated, safety approved box, guaranteed not to kill or maim.

    Back to the Christmas table, I am now wondering what exactly it was that brought that episode to mind, what conversation it was that caused that to come up. It doesn't really matter either. The fact remains it was a time of shared history and the telling and re-telling of that story so often that even people who were not there can share in the fun and joy of a memory. To this day none of us can think of those little vignettes without going back to those stories that make us all who we are, and tell those who never knew us then who we used to be.

    If there is anything worth anything, it's those stories that families and friends share that reaffirm their history and tie them together in an unbreakable bond.

    As I write this, I am tempted to call my daughter and ask her, "Hey, do you remember that time you and your baby brother got into the baby powder and spilled it down the furnace register in the bathroom ...."
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