There’s a tradition in our family. Whoever leaves home or moves to a new house gets ‘the tacky box’.
The tacky box is just what it sounds like – a box full of stuff nobody really wants, but is actually kind of useful when you’re moving into a new place – especially if you’re just starting out and moving away from home for the first time.
For instance, the tacky box is likely to include old, chipped and mismatched mugs and plates. It’ll have cutlery that does not appear to be part of a set. It might have a spare iron or an old coffee maker in it. There’ll be a bottle opener and corkscrew – but also some frayed blankets, old pillows – and maybe even a deck of cards. Sometimes some non-perishable foodstuffs end up in there for good measure.
Contributions to the tacky box are welcomed from the extended family, and cousins are just as likely to end up with the tacky box as siblings. There’s one tacky box. It’s just to get you started. You use the tacky box, you’ll take some things out and keep them, and you’ll put other unwanted but potentially useful things in.
But the time will come to pass it on.
Over time, the tacky box became a bit of an in-joke with the family. An ill-fitting garment or retired kitchen appliance would “look nice in the tacky box”, and “that’s one for the tacky box” would be a fitting response to the more unusual secret santa gift.
It’s not ‘throwing away’, you understand – it’s ‘passing along’.
Our 19 year-old son Jake is in India right now (welcoming the new year on the beach at Goa, as far as I can make out), but he’ll be coming back to the UK in a couple of months. And moving away from home is already on his mind.
Yes, he’s been living abroad for three months already, but he hasn’t “moved out” – and he plans to.
It’s good. We keep hearing of guys in their late twenties, early thirties – and some even into their forties living at home with their parents here in the UK. Going flatting after leaving school doesn’t seem to have quite the urgency here, or be quite the cultural norm that it is back in New Zealand.
Going away to university is common enough, of course – but from my experience with university students from other cities, when they say they’re “going home” they mean to their parents’ house for the holidays.
At any rate, whether it’s a kiwi thing or just a personal thing, Jake’s itching to strike out on his own, and good on him. But because we don’t live in the same country as the original tacky box (if, indeed, it still exists), we’re going to have to start a new one.
Of course, in an age of Freecycle, eBay and IKEA, perhaps the tacky box, as a cultural practice, is outmoded.
Doesn’t matter. We’re still going to do it – and I’m starting it today. Because, yes, this is just a box of tat – but it’s our box of tat – and tradition dictates that he’s going to have to take it with him.