I pulled down the box, blowing off a small cloud of dust collecting there over the last three years.

I’ve been through Steve’s clothes (with my sister’s help), Steve’s tools (with my friends’ help), but I was facing this cupboard–Steve’s cupboard–on my own.

I think I’m the only one who knew about Steve’s private obsession. He admired functional, efficient design, and so was always looking for the perfect “man purse”: some way to transport small necessities that were too bulky for his pockets.¬†Everything was black: outdoor gear style small bags he could attach to his belt, a fanny pack, and about six different leather cell phone holders (one dating back as far as his old flip phone!).

But as I was pulling them out to get a better look (and, to be honest,¬†count them), I saw some paper with primary color polka dots hiding in the bottom of the box. It was a folded piece of scrapbook¬†paper with blue stickers on the front spelling out the name he most loved to hear, “Papa.”

When I opened it up I was transported back to a scene at our kitchen table, with six-year-old Ellie’s eager fingers working so hard to place stickers precisely where she wanted them. She was putting her everything into this birthday card describing and illustrating her favorite things to do with her dad: camping, snow play, hiking, etc… She placed the stickers as she dictated her sincere expressions of appreciation and adoration. I think, “I love you because you are nice to me” is my favorite. He must have cherished that card.

And tucked there inside its pages was a collection of other mementos; a hand-made, red doily Valentine’s Day card my mom had given him and another from me; his draft registration card was there showing his young, none-too-happy face in profile, like a mug shot; and photos of me, beginning with my senior picture and continuing through about five different hairstyles over the first few years of our marriage.

Several of Steve’s friends have used the word “cherished” to describe how Steve felt about Ellie and me. So this small box held reminders of those things and people he held most dear: his family and his freedom. Oh–and sleek, efficient, black cases.

While his love for me was sure and steady, I am still honored to see I made it into this box, along with his other “obsessions.”