The Box Closet
The box closet was a real closet in the attic of the family house in Washington, D.C. in which Mary Meigs grew up. Bags and boxes of letters and diaries were found there after her mother’s death in 1958, and when Meigs read them she decided that they were the material for a book. In the course of reading her family’s letters and her mother’s early diaries, she no longer saw her parents as Mother and Father but as Margaret and Edward, young and vulnerable: Margaret who flirted, Edward who waited ten years to propose marriage. Meigs saw aspects of them that made them and their parents more fully real to her than they had been in life. She has woven the diaries and letters together with a narrative that integrates her discoveries with her memories as a daughter and granddaughter. The result is a moving portrait of a family that was protected by another kind of box closet—that of privilege and of moral certitude—with opaque walls that shut out most of the world. It was, in her father’s words, “the easy sheltered life,” which is so hard for “good” people to escape from.