The magic cardboard box


A cardboard hump surrounded and covered by dark green briars thicker than your thumb and stronger than any steel sat in the middle of the vacant lot across from 110 Flamingo Street.

Underneath all entanglement, dormant for the last 50 years, it lay waiting to be called back into service once more, but not by us.

Running away as fast as we could, Twin Brother Mark and I had quickly exited the industrial strength reinforced refrigerator box we used to steamroll our way across the briar-filled lot. We left our beloved steamroller box, and the giant underground yellow jacket nest it rested upon, for anyone brave enough to retrieve it.

That was 50 years ago, and I never thought I’d see a box filled with so much fun, powered and fueled only by childhood imagination again. I was wrong.

A few days ago, a giant reinforced box was delivered to our front door. Inside it held our new bathroom cabinetry. After dragging the huge box into the house, the installers pulled the cabinet out, leaving the empty box in the living room while they went about with installation. An hour later, with all work complete, the installers tried retrieving the empty box to set it out on the curb for garbage pickup the next morning.

But empty, the huge box was no more. It now contained priceless cargo. Our two granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline, were already playing inside, busily filling all the space with their active imaginations.

The workers went to their next job, and I went on to mine. The girls asked me to cut two windows that could open and close along with a swinging front door into their new magic cardboard house. After installation of windows and door, we played dolls for the rest of the day.

Everyday for weeks, the magic cardboard box morphed into a palace, dollhouse, yellow submarine, tree house, castle, race car, or spaceship. The outside was eventually covered with every size and shape of sticker imaginable. Faces were drawn, redrawn, and then stickered over.

One day, the Barbies were in control of the magic cardboard box, only to be overrun by hordes of dinosaurs who eventually were defeated by The Paw Patrol. Nightly roundups of toys were conducted to empty the house of all the stuffies, blankets, pillows, chairs, pots, pans, books, and toys that had somehow migrated into the space during the day.

Six weeks later, after many repairs using duct tape and glitter stickers, the magic cardboard box was no more. It finally made the trip to the curb, but sadly, not to the vacant lot across the street.

Defeating both time and toy innovations, the cardboard box, no matter the size, sparks the imaginations of children. Thanks to the almost daily deliveries to our house, looks like Little One and Sweet Caroline will enjoy a never-ending supply of boxes to play with.

They have already made chairs, tables, and a cat bed out of this week’s deliveries alone. And, if the refrigerator keeps making strange noises, an industrial strength reinforced refrigerator box could be delivered to our front porch in the not too distant future.

Soon a beloved steamroller could rise once again, but this time motorized by girl power. They said they want to paint it all pink … a pink steamroller? No worries.

I heard bees don’t sting anything pink. At least that’s what I told them. Just in case, I’ve already checked the vacant lot next-door deeming it to be a bee-free pink steamroller zone.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog:]