A Prize Inside

If you grew up with Cracker Jack boxes, you’ll remember that, amidst the popcorn and peanuts, there was always a prize at the bottom of the box. The prize could be anything… a tiny book, a plastic ring, a joke, or a cartoon. No matter what the prize, the discovery and the surprise made all the difference.

The same emotions are created for Artist/Poet/Writer, Susan Mardele, when she opens one of the hundred pieces in her box collection. Given to her as gifts or purchased at various vintage sales, the boxes represent a myriad of memories, collected over a lifetime. A glass dish has fairies in it. An enamel box has a few ashes from her deceased boyfriend; a black box contains cards, jewelry, art and handmade gifts from her son, Kenny. “Kids don’t really have the resources to give, so they give what they can,” says Mardele. “My son gave me what he could, in the form of handmade gifts, and this box contains all of my best memories.”

Those best memories are on display July 22 – August 14, 2020 at the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts in a new exhibit entitled “Collected Boxes – Anything But Empty”. Susan has graciously loaned the museum her box collection complete with the memories and prizes that are contained within. The exhibit will be open to the public between the hours of 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM. Interested museum patrons may secure a FREE ticket to the exhibit at: www.heardcraig.org (under the Events tab).

If you’d prefer to see the exhibit on-line, you may go to Susan’s website at: www.susanmardele.com and from her homepage, click on the tab marked “Collected Boxes” which will take you to the start of the collection.


In addition to traditional wood boxes, Susan’s collection has metal boxes, glass boxes, enamel boxes, paper boxes, resin boxes, plastic boxes, branded boxes, and miscellaneous boxes.


Many of the boxes contain prizes important to Susan such as heart-shaped rocks, birds in the binocular box, dalmatians in the fire hydrant box, and more. A poet from the time she was a child, Susan has put several of her box memories into poetry – - quite a prize for the reader:

In Boxes


Open the lid and look inside, there’s naught for you to see.

Yet truth be told, there’s a lot inside… If who you ask is me.

I hold in my hand a little box, given with love in mind.

There’s a world of mem’ry stashed inside of the warm and loving kind.

Wood and metal, glass and clay, each one different and fine,

I think of the time, the person, the gift, feel a warmth that’s only mine.

Yet some weren’t gifts from someone else, I gave them to myself.

A little gem I saw somewhere and added to my shelf.

I’ve cleaned and polished every one to show them at their best,

Gave the meaning of some of them and let you wonder about the rest.

Who would gather such a batch of boxes over the years?

It’s kind of silly to have so many my inner critic jeers.

Yet here we are, I’m showing you some bits of my insides.

And you are here, looking and seeing each piece as it confides,

The loves I’ve had and lost again, the child who’s grown so tall,

Precious friends who’ve gone away and friends I still can call.

So, lift the lid off your heart and mind, and let the journey start,

For a story told in boxes is… an adventure of the heart.

Susan Mardele, July 2020



Susan Mardele can be reached at www.susanmardele.com or visit with her the first Saturday of each month at the Mockingbird Poetry Society meetings, 1:30 PM in the Heard-Craig Carriage House (or, during the COVID-19 precaution time, the meetings are on-line) www.mockingbirdpoetry.org






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© 2019 by Heard-Craig Center for the Arts.

205 W. Hunt Street, McKinney, TX  75069   972-569-6909

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