When I turned seventeen, it was like any other year,
The family gathered 'round to celebrate and give a cheer;
My mom had cooked my favorite dish - the birthday cake was grand,
While presents followed up the meal, just like we always planned.
I had no indication to expect that there was more,
But as the evening ended, there was one more gift in store;
My mother asked me to her side, and said, "This is for you."
She handed me a bright, red box tucked hidden, out of view.
I wondered what it held within, upon this special night,
I opened it with eager hands - the box was big, but light;
She watched as I untied the bows adorned with silk and lace,
While gently lifting off the lid that held the gift in place.
I set aside the cover and I looked inside to see,
An empty box – a hollow square - was staring back at me;
I turned toward my mom, an awkward silence filled the air,
"I'd thank you mom," I laughed, "But as you see ... there's nothing there!"
She grinned and said, "There's something there - it's what you have and hold,
A gift you carry all the time that can't be bought or sold.
It's all the life experience you've had these last few years,
The ups and downs, the good the bad, the laughter and the tears."
"This box contains your memories ... the "lessons" you have learned,
And with each passing moment, all the knowledge you have earned;
Be proud of your accomplishments, be honest with your flaws,
Be wise to the mistakes you’ve made, and try to find the cause.”
"Some recollections can be hard, and often we forget
The lessons that we learned from them - the challenges we’ve met;
Each year, this box will overflow and need some loving care,
It's not an easy job sometimes – but who said life is fair?"
“No matter what the past has held, it's always there to stay,
And every lesson that we learn, we need to tuck away.
So every year, upon this day, "remember" your last year,
It is a gift you give yourself, that's what you have right ~here~."
She pointed to the empty gift, the bright, red box with bows,
And as I looked inside it then, my recollections rose;
The box began to fill with simple moments of my youth,
Then with a rush, came tumbling in, realities and truth.
I let them all wash over me, and did not shy away,
From mem'ries I had long since buried for another day;
I met them all head-on, and though it was a trying task,
I filed their lessons in my box, just like my mother asked.
I've had a few more birthdays since ... (a lot to tell the truth),
But I still have that big, red box that I got in my youth;
The silk's a little dull from wear, the lace is tattered some,
But every year I take the time and my advice from mom.
I open up that lid, and I’m reminded what it takes,
To learn from every day I live – to grow from my mistakes;
That empty box now overflows with lessons I have learned,
And I am thankful for them all … because each one’s been earned.