For years I've dusted around an old jewelry box. When I'm not sliding it from side to side to get underneath it, it sits in the middle of my dresser as decoration, unbothered. I purchased it more than 15 years ago from a yard sale, and I've been tossing things in it ever since.

Recently, I decided to open it to see how much had accumulated throughout the past few years. I glanced at my reflection in the dusty mirror that was covered with multiple fingerprints. This forgotten box held different items that took me on a trip down memory lane.

The first thing I spotted took me all the way back to one of my best friends' weddings. I remembered the uncomfortable lavender bridesmaid dress that made me look frumpy. I chuckled when I thought about the laughs we shared when I ripped off one of my fake eyelashes during the reception. It was hanging on for dear life after I cried throughout most of the ceremony. In the box were the clip-on earrings and matching necklace that her sister hunted for days to find. I remember being afraid to turn my head too fast, fearing that one would end up on the floor.

I scrambled around a bit until I found a sticky note dated March 2009. It was a short letter to my husband. The first sentence read, “Thanks for making my good day a perfect day.” I had decorated it with hearts. I reminisced about the days when I'd leave sticky notes and cards taped to the bathroom mirror. Those were the days before texting and emojis were so popular. These days, love can be expressed through GIFs that contain bears with multiple hearts shooting out of their bellies or kissing bunnies.

At the bottom of the box was a small tooth in plastic wrap. This had to be one of the boys'. I reflected on their days of losing teeth and appreciated the fact that I will never again have to tiptoe around them in the wee hours of the morning.

They used to compete with each other to see who could stay awake and see the tooth fairy. I can remember one night staying awake with them and claiming to be interested in catching a glimpse of the one who comes to collect teeth and leave money. When they couldn't hold on any longer, they allowed sleep to take over, which finally allowed us the opportunity to exchange their teeth for money.

I also found two purple plastic numbers, a two and a five, which was saved from my 25th birthday cake. There were also German coins I'd saved from a tour years prior and watches and bracelets I'd collected over the years.

In the mix was also a name tag that I had worn on my uniform during ROTC in high school. I will never miss "uniform day," when I had to stand at attention and be examined from head to toe. There was often an Irish pennant or out-of-place crease that caused the superior officers to give me a less than perfect score.

I was surprised when I came across a folded envelope. It was from a pen pal I had written in Egypt. She was assigned to me by my French class teacher in high school. I opened it and read the barely legible words. I was surprised that I'd kept that letter all these years.

As I plundered through my old things, I wondered why I ever decided to save an old baby tooth. I looked down at the old watches that haven't had working batteries in years. I knew I had no plans of ever wearing them again, but each of them had sentimental value and its own interesting story.

Sure, I could part with the contents of an old jewelry box, but there was no need. My old things weren't bothering anyone.

To some people, it's an old jewelry box filled with old things. To me, it's a jewelry box, purchased for just a few cents at a yard sale, filled with beautiful memories.

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Christine McCormick Cooper lives in Florence and is employed at PGBA. She enjoys spending time with her husband, teenage triplet sons and daughter. Contact her at citizencolumnist@florencenews.com.

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