• Maureen Kenney, Art Nomad

The Gift of the Shoebox

Updated: Jun 29, 2019


I’ve learned to be nonjudgmental when my husband pronounces his desire to sell everything and move to Abu Dabhi.  He is a nomadic spirit like me, and occasionally a crazy idea slips past our normal filter into the conscious space we share with others. What response can we expect our loved ones to have? “Are you insane?” is quite common, and “Have you thought this thing through?” often follows.  Of course it’s insane; of course we haven’t thought it through.  A wish expressed is not a wish realized, at least not with me.  Having spoken the words out loud, however, moves the idea forward like a pinball ricocheting off our disbelieving family and friends. With my husband I’ve learned to smile and relish the exploration of his current crazy wish, as he so patiently does with mine, while knowing it will not likely lead to any real movement. So what if it does? Why argue when the imaginative journey is so fun?


On the other hand, these desires can grow legs in a hurry! In 1991, I dropped everything to move to southern California on a one week notice. With an employment offer from Scripps Hospital, I needed to get out there fast if I wanted the job!  Departure date was the Fourth of July, my own personal Independence Day.  Relocation is hard, physically and emotionally. A long road trip through the desert is especially daunting.  That’s why I want to tell you about the two most amazing gifts.  The first was from my dear friend, Rosena.  She gave the precious gift of time, volunteering to travel with me on my westward sojourn through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and ultimately Southern California. We talked, laughed, reminisced, dreamed, lamented, cajoled, and cursed our way across the desert, which turned out to be one of Rosena’s least favorite terrains. What a pal!  


The second precious gift was “The Shoebox”, a thoughtful present from my dear friend, Ann, who was unable to join us. Having calculated the distance between Fort Worth and San Diego, approximately 1,350 miles, she filled a shoebox with “100-mile” envelopes, and a few extras thrown in. So off we drove in my four door Alfa Romeo, armed with our Shoebox and all my worldly possessions. Every hundred miles we opened the next envelope and did what Ann instructed. 

For your amusement, here’s a sampling of the contents in the shoebox.

  • License plate bingo, which Rosena and I dutifully played. Thank goodness this was at the start of the trip, because it took us several hundred miles to find all of the requisite license plates as cars whizzed by.

  • Groucho Marx glasses with a note, “In case you want to be ‘incognito’ or just want to entertain other travelers for a while”.  Oh, yes, we wore those glasses for the entire one hundred miles as instructed, and provoked quite a few chuckles from the passing cars.


What effort and love must have gone into the creation of our Shoebox, something I keep and cherish to this day. This act of kindness made a deep impression on me, and helped to seed similar efforts I have undertaken over the years for friends.  Think about a similar package you can create when a loved one faces a major road trip, or if they are on a more sedentary convalescent journey. They will be appreciative and stupefied, and you’ll be talking about it for years to come!


-Originally published 16 January 2013

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