When I was small, I collected music boxes. I had two favorites:
a music box shaped like Noah's arc (the paint was vibrant and textured, and each layer of the arc spun, and each animal nodded or smiled or waved it's little animal paw).
Noah's arc has always been my favorite story, even though it's against man, even though the gravity of God, the gravity of society, the gravity of being the outsider presses down, it does not matter. Noah saw outside of the singular. He had hope to press on; when I was eight years old, this meant something horribly true to me. The idea of an endless hope, despite the crushing weight of such a cumbersome devastation, is still the penultimate vessel I cling to, only following the idea of being good.
My second favorite music box is the first one I ever received, and the song it plays, "Kitten on the Keys", either makes me cry or gives me that surging feeling of a transcendental grief. The music box is tiny; it's porcelain, and it's hand painted; it's numbered to prove it's limited, to prove it's special.
When I was six or seven, I found the order by mail ad in either the back of my Great Aunt's Reader's Digest, which I used to take to Kinder Care (only to be horrified by the traumatic and true cautionary tales of children climbing into sewers and getting lost for days, only to be found because a single finger was seen poking through the cracks in a street).
The only other place I could have seen it was in the back of my mother's Family Circle magazine, which I would look through when she braided my hair in the mornings; which ever it was, she was there, because she heard me say that white, painted kitten with the pink bow at it's neck, playing the piano, was all I ever wanted. And when I opened that small package on Christmas day,
I could not believe that I had received all I could ever imagine wanting. And maybe this is why Christmas makes me cry. The moment I received that music box, I knew it would always make me think of my mother. Even at seven, I imagined the pain such an object would cause me later in life.
I knew this to be true because when I was five, my great grandmother gave me a tiny, glass frog, in a tiny, plastic case. It had a tiny letter about being kind and being patient. That tiny, glass frog was the only thing I could ever imagine wanting; it was hope before Noah's arc was the hope, but I lost it, and then my great grandmother died, and I was equally devastated by both these things because as a child, I knew that one caused the other to happen.
But I did not know which was the effect of the other. Even now, I still dream about finding the frog, and when I wake, I search the hidden caves and dressers of my parents' house, sure that I will find it at least once more, at some significant moment, in one of these days.
When I imagine heaven, it is close to how the end of American Beauty goes, once Kevin Spacey knows he's at the end, and it's the starry sky, it's boy scout camp and yellow leaves;
it's the wonder of lost days and profound memories.
When I imagine heaven, it's the hollow of a tree in a dense forest that's never dark. The light is always blue; it's always green, and the fog is not frightening. Inside the hollow of the tree is everything I've loved and lost, all the beautiful parts of the world that made me, and every other tree is full of the beautiful parts that made everyone else. We visit from tree to tree; we talk about wonder and good things. The dark parts don't matter; this heaven is human; it's organic and pure and deep.
When I imagine heaven, it's space and time travel; it's the truth that the universe grows more infinite everyday, and that infinite wonder grows by each day that passes on earth; each sun that sinks beneath the wire of trees is then shelved in infinite space. We are shelved in the beauty of the stars, the unknown dreams of vibrant magenta and green cosmos.
We are infinite, and heaven is endless because we can press through our past histories, the parts we lived and the parts we wish we had; the moments we turned down, revisited and seen. Marley on stage, full of bullet holes during a protest rally; the dark rooms I wish I had walked you out of. We turn the moments over; we change them; we live in them for years.
We pull our children through, show them who we used to be before,
well, before everything.