Andy Denen

Ideas on life, church, and culture.

Show Me Your Friends… (Part 1)

Fourth grade was a crazy year for me. I thought if I left my mom at all, something bad was going to happen to her. There was an entire month where I didn’t make it through a full school day without needing her to come pick me up. It got to the point where she had to work in the nurse’s office and the library just so I could have the peace of mind to sit through my classes. That just scratches the surface of that crazy period of time. There will be future posts dedicated to that for sure. Fourth grade was definitely crazy.

Another thing that happened that year is that I learned a valuable lesson about the great lengths people will go to be included with their peers. I was a nerdy kid. I didn’t have a ton of friends. I went to a small Christian school. My parents had to drive me everyday. The people I went to school with were not the same people that lived in my neighborhood or rode the bus or went to the sporting events. It was really only me and my sister in our neighborhood just doing our thing.

But this new thing happened in fourth grade. There was a group of other boys that started bringing these boxes to school everyday. They were small, with varied designs. Some had clips others had locks. Maybe the size of a pencil box. And they were black. Solid black. No way to see what was inside unless they showed you. And they would never show you.

As I write this I can paint a vivid picture of the time I tried really hard to see what was inside one of these boxes and the “leader” of this little group of “box boys” flung his elbow up, almost catching me in the chin just to keep me from ever getting a peek at what he had stashed away in his secret treasure box. So I did the only thing I could do. I decided I was going to join this little “box club.”

But I didn’t have a little black box with clasps or locks or clips. But I did have some tupperware and a lot of black construction paper. I remember meticulously cutting, taping and pasting construction paper to the inside of a tupperware container normally used for your chicken nuggets in a lunch box. I felt so stupid trying to make this box look like all the other boys boxes, but I was convinced this would get me in their club to see what was in their boxes.

It didn’t work. I felt stupid and I knew if it was ever going to happen I just had to get me one of those boxes. Shortly after that I was at the toy store and I noticed a spy kit that had a bunch of stuff in it. Notepads, magnifying glass, “night vision” goggles (I was gullible too). What did it come with that you could carry all your new gear in? You guessed it, a black lock box.

I BEGGED my mom for this kit. She caved and bought me what she thought was a spy kit (I did eventually have a period of time I LOVED spy gear too… I told you I was a nerdy kid), but what I really wanted was that stupid little black box. Once I got home I realized I had another problem.

What do I put in my new black box?? I’m obviously going to be in the club now, but what will all the other boys have in their boxes. What can I put in mine that will make me cool like them? So I threw some pencils in there, a random key chain, some change. I think I may have put a watch or something that made a cool “metal-on-metal” sound. I really wanted to be authentic to this made up childish “box club” that somehow managed to go from a stupid gag to a real life status marker in my small Christian school fourth grade class room.

I walked in to school the next day with my chest puffed out a little further, my shoulders a little broader, I was in. I knew I was in. There was no way they could keep me out… I had a box.

And I was right… for a little while…

Part 2 Tomorrow ///

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