To a three-year-old every object is something to play with, and little is more exciting than a cardboard box you can get into.
We start with Alexander climbing into the box and being a jack-in-the-box, popping up when nobody is looking. Then he becomes a big present in a box to be carried to his father as a surprise. Or when Lin comes home we say that we don’t know what has happened to Alexander. As she looks around, he leaps out of the box. Being swung by his arms in and out of the box is also fun.
But the excitement rises when he walks with a box on his head. A box with legs, how strange. Then I do the same but have to go slowly to avoid walking into the furniture. But when I turn the box round I can see, through two slits. I begin to pursue Alexander. He’s tremendously excited, running away screaming. This game has just the right level of excitement and fear, the same, I imagine, as adults get from horror films. Is it really me in the box? Or could this be a walking box, a malevolent one? Or could it be something horrible in the box?
Perla, Alexander’s mother, puts on the box. Alexander and I run away. He clings to me. The funny thing is that I begin to feel a bit scared as well. Is that really Perla in the box? I can’t see her head or upper body? Perhaps she has been captured in some way? We run and run, with Alexander screaming.
Now the game is over. The box is on the floor. Perla is here. We are both disappointed and relieved.
Two days later Alexander wants to play the game again, but this time he puts on a Spiderman mask and fights me in the box. The mask has given him power and courage.
Masks, Lin reminds me, have great magic and power. She cannot talk to somebody wearing a Prince Phillip mask, it’s just too disconcerting. I think of the masked balls in Venice, when behind a mask you could do anything, be anybody. How exciting, how terrifying.