For some not-quite-known reason, I’ve had a penchant for cigar boxes.

While living in San Antonio a friend took me to a local cigar shop where I found I could purchase empty cigar boxes. The boxes were an inexpensive treat—most were wood with unique little latches. They have dove-tailed corners and of course are printed with intriguing names. The one on my desk holding business cards has Belicoso imprinted on the side.

I’ve collected more unusual ones too. I had a flat green lacquered one with the images gathering people, horses and hounds before a hunt. I gifted it to someone but remember it as beautiful.

More recently I came upon a cigar shop in the Indianapolis urban neighborhood of Broad Ripple. They too had boxes in the window marked 60 cents to $2.00. I went in and was struck by the beauty of these boxes—although they seem to be made of heavy cardboard, they are artistically decorated with colorful swirls. I selected two. One has swirls in shades of brown. The other is blue with white fleur de leis.

Cigar box season

It took me years to uncover why I am so attracted to cigar boxes. One summer weekend while visiting the family lake cottage I found the reason; there on my grandmother’s dresser was a cigar box.

Upon further inspection I found that our family cottage contained more than one cigar box. Cigar boxes are the perfect place to store small things—jewelry, watches, golf tees, unused key rings, and coins—all the flotsam that ends up on a dresser when you empty your pockets.

Of course this was something I had seen but never really noticed. It never occurred to me that the cigar boxes would become a visual reminder of people and a place that I loved. Now, these years later when my grandparents and parents are all gone, when our family has sold the family lake cottage, the cigar boxes serve as a welcome reminder. I have more than one—and each are tucked with little things that represent the flotsam of my own pockets; special coins, the single earring when one of a pair has been lost, business cards, stones and other talismans I carry.

As the humidity of an Indiana summer settles around me, looking at these cigar boxes takes me back to the scent of the lake, to suits and towels drying on a line, to grilling our dinner on a barbecue and just picked Indiana sweet corn. Dr. Alan Wolfelt would call these cigar boxes “linking objects.” Things by which we remember those we love and times we’ve shared with them.

Linking objects connect us to our history; to those who have died but remain as near as a cigar box, a piece of jewelry, a photograph, a favorite shirt or any other physical memento. What linking objects are you cherishing in this season?