Cardboard boxes and empty lots

Market_and_Summit_in_Akron,_empty_lotIt appears to be true that smells are a potent trigger of memories. I’ve heard it said often, so it must be true, right? Well, maybe. I will say that each summer, a season I generally dislike, whenever I catch the smell of freshly cut field grass and weeds memories of summers of my youth fill my mind.

Specifically, I recall that empty lot across the street from where I lived as a boy. The empty lot was behind a strip mall, so there were dumpsters for diving to find unexpected treasures. And just a couple blocks away was another strip mall with one of the stores being an appliance store.

Oh, would we kids case that store’s dumpster area. We mainly had one item in mind: Boxes! You see, sometimes the appliance store would neglect to break down its boxes when they put them out by the dumpster. And when we spotted those empty, but still intact, boxes, we knew what we were doing that day. We’d be makin’ forts!

We would scarf up those boxes. Usually, they would have been for ovens or dishwashers, but sometimes there would be the most coveted of the cardboard appliance boxes – the refrigerator box! Oh, boy, if you got your hands on an intact refrigerator box you were the envy of the rest of your gang.


So, the boxes would by hauled over to the empty lot and knives and scissors and string would be acquired. Some of us might even get some markers or crayons to draw control panels for a rocket, for example. We would cut windows and doors with flaps for privacy. And we might connect each section with smaller, but still big enough to crawl through, boxes to serve as tunnels for our fort/hideout/rocket ship.

One time my friend Todd grabbed a box for a mattress. He made it work even though pretty much all you could do in it was lay down. Good thing he wasn’t claustrophobic.

Usually it would take as much or more time just getting the boxes from the store to the empty lot and all set up as forts or whatever, than we would spend playing in them. But we would play in them. And the whole day would be spent with those boxes.

Inevitably, kids being kids, it would be time to destroy the structure we had so painstakingly built. And that was almost more fun than all that earlier work and play on that busy summer afternoon. And, because our empty lot was about half surrounded by a hill, we would take parts of the broken down rocket/fort and use the cardboard as sleds to ride down the hill.

The day would be coming to an end and supper would be on the table soon, so it was time for these tired kids to head home. We were good kids, though. We would gather up the flattened cardboard remnants of that day’s imaginings and put them in the dumpster where they belonged.

Well, maybe not in the appliance store’s dumpster, because two blocks at the end of the day felt way longer than at the start. We’d put the cardboard in one of the closer store’s dumpster. We were good kids, but not that good.

Packing Peanuts!

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