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Keeping the Memories Alive This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   It was an ordinary box, a little larger than a jewelrybox, but not nearly as fancy. It was rectangular, and had a domed topthat attached with two brass hinges in back and a clasp in front. Anintricate pattern carved into the top was, except for the bronze cornerreinforcements, the only decoration. The box looked old and used. Insideit was plain wood with worn red fabric covering the bottom. In spots, adarker shade of fabric showed how it had looked when new.

As Sarapacked her belongings, she thought, Why do we have to move? Everythingshe loved - her house, the brook in her backyard, her best friend downthe street, the ice cream shop at the corner - she'd never see again.Sara sighed, and began to look through a big cardboard box. She dugthrough stuffed animals, clothes, photos and books before she saw thebox.

Sara was startled at first, because she'd almost forgottenabout it. Slowly she lifted it into her lap, delicately stroking itssmooth surface. She hesitated, then quickly opened it and stared inside.Her hands hovered over the objects, not wanting to touch anything. Thefirst thing she saw was the candle. It was red, her favorite color.

*        *     here?" Sara jumped around the kitchen, bumping into her father.

"How's my princess?" he asked in his booming voice,picking her up and spinning. Sara squealed in delight as her facebrushed one of the streamers hanging from the ceiling. He put her down."You must have grown five inches since I saw you this morning. Youlook like a young lady!"

Pleased, Sara twirled in her newgreen dress. She had picked it out herself because it looked grown up.The door bell rang and she ran to open it.

"Grandma!"she exclaimed, giving her a huge hug. "You're here!"

"Of course, I wouldn't miss my pumpkin's birthday foranything," she chuckled and put down her bag. "Six birthdaykisses ... and a gentle pinch to grow an inch. But don't grow any morethan that or you'll be taller than me!" she said. Sara skipped intothe kitchen.

Sara, her dad and grandmother were sitting at thedining room table when her mom came in carrying the cake and startedsing-ing, "Happy birthday to you ..." Everyone joined, andSara's mom placed the cake, topped with a ballerina in a pink leotard,tutu and toe shoes, in front of Sara. She counted thecandles.

"There are seven," she said,puzzled.

"One to grow on," her grandmother explained."That's the one you make your wish on." Sara blew them out.She knew what to wish for.

After they finished, everyone sat inthe living room. Sara eyed the paper bag her grandmother had brought,but the presents from her parents came first. In the first package was adoll with eyes that opened and shut, and real-looking blond hair withcurls. She was wearing a pink tutu and slippers.

"Thankyou," Sara said, awestruck. "She's beautiful!" She openedthe next package, and found a miniature version of the green dress shewas wearing. Sara quickly put it on the doll, and hugged it close,smiling at her parents. "It's perfect."

Her grandmotherwas next. She pulled a small package out of her bag. Just the right sizefor ballet slippers! Sara thought as she excitedly ripped the wrappingpaper. She was disappointed when all she found was a wooden box. Itdidn't even look new. Sara opened it, hoping for music or a twirlingballerina, but the box was empty.

"Thanks," she managedto mumble.

"You're probably wondering why I gave you someold, plain-looking box. I know you aren't old enough to appreciate ityet, but someday you will understand," her grandmother said."This box was my mother's, and she used it to hold her most prizedpossessions when she came to America. It was one of the few things shebrought with her." She paused for a minute, with a very farawaylook in her eyes. "This is a memory box. Over the years it willgrow full, and when you are older you can give it to your daughter orgranddaughter. I had only sons, so I am giving this toyou.

"I have something else for you, too," Sara'sgrandmother said with a smile. She lifted another package from the bag,about the same size as the first. Sara unwrapped it, thinking it toowould be something old and boring. Instead, under layers of tissuepaper, she found a pair of pink ballet slippers, the ones she had alwayswished for. Sara tried them on, and they fit perfectly. "Thank youthank you thank you!" she chanted happily.

*        *     Her wish had come true; she had gotten the pink slippers and starteddance lessons the next week. Sara placed the candle back in the box. Shesaw a small blue mitten with a red heart outlined in white. She held itagainst her hand, and saw that it was much too small for her. But sheremembered that winter it had fit.

*        *     this stuff?" She was getting ready to go to the sledding hill nextto the pond with the neighborhood kids.

"You'll be gladlater. Besides, you'd get wet and catch a cold if you didn't,"Sara's mom explained.

Sara sighed and zipped her jacket. Lookingout the window she yelled, "Becky's here.Bye!"

"Sara?" her mom called, running down thestairs. "Remember not to go out of sight of hermom."

"I won't," Sara promised.

"Andstay away from the pond," her mom warned. "The ice may seemthick, but it may not keep you from falling in. It will be really thinaround the edges."

"Mom, I know! I promise to becareful. Can I go now?" Sara asked, pulling on thedoorknob.

Her mom sighed, smiling. "Okay," she said."Have fun!" Sara ran outside, waving to her friend. Shegrabbed her blue sled and met Becky and her mom.

There were 20kids at the hill already, and Sara and Becky joined the fun. They madetrains with the sleds and raced each other to the bottom; some of theolder boys even made jumps.

"Race you to the bottom!"yelled Becky. "Ready ... set ... go!" Sara took a runningstart, jumped on her sled, and was off. She raced down the hillheadfirst, until she hit one of the jumps, and went flying. She landedhard, and felt a sudden pain on her hip. But the sled didn't stop; itcarried her through the thin line of trees right toward the pond.Frantically, Sara tipped over at the edge. The empty sled skidded to themiddle of the pond. Relieved, Sara brushed off snow. When she looked up,she saw a small gray and white kitten sniffing and walking around thesled.

"Here, kitty," Sara said, whistling. She bentdown and the cat looked up. "It's okay! Come here, kitty,"Sara said in a soothing voice. She inched forward. Suddenly, she heard aloud cracking sound. Sara realized she was kneeling on the ice. Shetried to scramble out, but slid on the packed snow. The ice opened up,and she slipped into the water.

"Somebody help!" Sarascreamed. She tried to climb out, but there was nothing to grab. Sheknew that if she got on the ice and lay flat, she could stay up, but theice kept breaking. "S-s-somebody, help me!" she screamedagain, shivering and scared.

A few people had come to see if shewas okay. Sara heard them, and screamed again. Her clothes were soaked,and it was getting harder to stay afloat.

Sara heard, "Holdon!" but it seemed very far away. A hand reached out and shegrabbed it, but her mitten slipped off and she fell back into the water.She went under, and her mother's voice echoed in her head. It willprobably be thin around the edges, so don't go near it ...

Sarafelt strong arms lift her from the cold water and carry up the hill tothe heat of the bonfire. "The kitten ... " she managed towhisper, then everything went black.

Sara woke up in her bed. Hermom gave her a long hug. "Don't ever scare me like thatagain!" she said. "They brought you home covered with ice. I'mso glad you're okay."

"I ... I'm fine, Mom,"Sara said, hugging back. The doorbell rang.

Becky walked in."You okay?" she asked.

"Yeah," Saraanswered.

"You sure had everyone worried," Beckysaid, smiling.

*        *     back in the box with everything else. The other one had fallen into thewater. The next day someone had brought the kitten to the house.Everyone helped put up "found" signs, but no one claimed him.On Christmas morning, Sara found him sitting in front of the tree with ared bow around his neck.

"What are you going to callhim?" her parents had asked.

She smiled."Mittens!"

*        *     through the box's contents: a small container holding the first toothshe lost, a brochure for France from her family's trip, the rock herbike hit the first time she tried to ride. There was even the ring hergrandmother gave her just before she died. Sara closed the box, and knewwhat to do. She grabbed all the photo albums, took out a handful ofpictures that would remind her of home and put them in an envelope. Inthe bottom of the box, she found a small piece of paper sticking outfrom under a rip in the red cloth. Curious, Sara unfolded the delicatepaper:

Dearest Sara,

I hope that by the time you find thisyou have put this box to good use. I hope you love it as much as mymother and I have. I hope you carry on the tradition, but even moreimportantly, keep the memories alive.

Love always,Grandma


Sara folded the note and packed the box away. Yes,Grandma, she thought.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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