Standing on tiptoe, my eyes search the dark recesses of the closet… There it is. I reach up, slide the box off the shelf, and crouch down, before gently placing the box on the floor in front of me. Cautiously, I peel back the cardboard flaps, apprehensive of what I will find. Peering at the contents, I carefully reach in and pull out… A pale violet Easter dress, with lacy white cap sleeves and neckline- just one of many dresses sewn for me by my mom. A red hoppity horse, the source of giggles and gales of laughter, as I watched my Aunt LaVerne hop her way around an obstacle course of trees at my birthday party. A bunny shaped birthday cake, covered in white and pink flaked coconut, adorned with red licorice whiskers and black jelly bean eyes, shared with my kindergarten friends. Dollar bills carefully folded and placed in my ‘flower girl’ hand, after dancing polkas at my sister Sue's wedding. Whispers of "Goodnight, 'Bug-a-Boo'" and "Sleep tight, 'Pootsie Pie'”, as my mom and dad tucked me into bed at night. Ears of roasted corn dunked in a coffee can filled with melted butter. A pig with an apple in its mouth, and stuffed with sauerkraut, roasting over a spit. Peanut butter and jelly pudgie pies cooked over a campfire. Pixie Sticks, Tootsie Rolls, and Dots purchased from the Evergreen Campsite store. Sand castles with moats and drawbridges crafted of twigs. A mud pie concocted from layers of wet sand, pine needles and leaves, and sprinkled with white ‘sugar’ sand. A backwards fall into the fire pit while delivering the pie. Grandma’s ‘molly’asses cookies dunked in my special cup of ‘coffee’. A small, ceramic fawn figurine, with a ‘broken’ neck (repaired by my grandpa with super glue), the result of an unfortunate collision with a sparkly super ball. Carrots carefully pulled from the earth, rinsed by the garden hose, and munched on while sitting on the steps of my grandparents' house. Pounding on the cottage door in the middle of the night. A long car ride home, and my grandpa’s funeral. “Picture Rock” where I modeled my bikini, and every new dress received for my 4th birthday. Pink foam curlers wound and clipped in my stick straight, brown hair. Miniature cakes baked by the light bulb in my Easy Bake oven. Four kittens and a momma cat mewing in the hollowed out base of an old oak tree outside my bedroom window one rainy summer day. A fort built in the tree line of a farmer's field near my house. Twigs tossed in the creek, and disappearing in the culvert under the road. Backyard sleepovers in tents (and sometimes under the stars) with Jenny, Angie, Jill, and Jolene. Night games of ‘Kick the Can’ and ‘Sardines’ with the neighborhood kids. Day games of kickball, trees used as bases. A lime-green, one-speed, banana seat bike pedaled up the big Fairview Road 'hill’ on the way to school. A King Arthur puppet with a painted clay head, and robe fashioned from scraps of baby blue silk, and emblazoned with a navy felt ‘A’. Duso the dolphin leading my 4th grade class in song (‘Hey Duso! Come out to play!’). Snow forts built at recess, jeans soaked by melting snow (‘cuz in 6th grade snow pants were so not cool). Games of kickball on the Clayton School playground, and crawling over the fence to retrieve the red rubber ball from the farmer’s pasture before the cows would take notice. A school spelling bee won with the word ‘liable’. And a city spelling bee missed due to the death of a great aunt. Matching pajamas worn at slumber parties, cheerleader formations… all captured on film. A record player spinning Shaun Cassidy’s ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’ over and over and over again until every word was known by heart. After hour Baskin Robbin’s parties… staying up all night. Weekends at the cottage, building cities in the sand, teaching friends how to dive off the dock, and rowing to the island to play castaway. Suddenly… I am aware of the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes, and the smile on my face. Carefully I pack each memory back into the box, grateful for the gift of the childhood I had.