When my mother knew she was dying, she took my sister and me aside separately to help her “clean out her things.” She lived simply with few possessions but divvied out to each of us what she wanted us to have. She really only had costume jewelry, nothing expensive, and had a jewelry box, but she also kept a few pieces in this small, slightly dinged, red tin box that once held Johnston’s Chocolates. All I recall when she gave it to me was that she’d always been told it belonged to Grandpa Henson (her father’s father). People used to save good boxes like that, especially wooden or tin for keepsakes or whatever. And that’s all I know. Because we were dealing with her illness , entry into a nursing home, hospice six weeks later, and her death three weeks thereafter, I never had the presence of mind to ask her any more questions. I took the box home and put it on my dresser.
Weeks later, as I was stretching one day, the box caught my eye and my mind started turning. What if that box is all one knew about one’s family or heritage? What a great premise for a book! I thought, before I’d ever even considered taking a writing class much less writing a book.
That stuck with me, and about three years later when I took my first writing class, the box kept popping up as inspiration. At first, I tried to write a story based in the 80’s and the box belonged to the protagonists, who then wanted to find out why it was the only item she had when she was sent to an orphanage. My story kept evolving until I was compelled to begin at the beginning, my made up version of where the box came from, which led to the idea of a trilogy and maybe beyond? I have finished a second manuscript and do have Irish ancestry on that side of my family, but no knowledge of anywhere in particular from Ireland. I’ve never explored my genealogy because I have been so busy researching and writing.
My sense the box is integral to my story was affirmed by a friend who went on a Celtic spirituality tour in Ireland in 2017, long after THE RED TIN CHOCOLATE BOX was finished. She texted me, “Today, our Celtic guide said you don’t write a book, it demands to be birthed by you.”