Time Capsule: Opening the Box

By Richard Paul Evans Premium

Seven years ago, I sat down to write a story for my daughters. I was not a writer by profession. I was a dad. I wrote radio commercials. I just wanted to write something that would express my love to my two little girls. This is where the miracle began, because as I began to write this story, this story began to write itself. It would wake me up in the middle of the night, or early in the morning. Once I pulled off the freeway and wrote an entire chapter on the back of bills and envelopes and whatever paper I could get my hands on in the car. And it went on this way for about five weeks. 

Then, one very incredible morning, I went out to the kitchen table and began to write just a few sentences when I understood for the first time that this story was about the pain my mother felt over losing a child. I felt that I was not in the room alone. My sister Sue died when I was 2 years old. I said out loud, “Sue, you gave me this story for Mom.”

At this point, I knew I needed to share my story with more than just my two daughters. So, I went out to a local Kinko’s copy center, and I made up 20 copies. I came back and I gave the first copy to my wife, Keri. I said, “Honey, just read the first three pages. If you don’t like the book, you don’t have to read it.” She started to read, and around midnight I noticed that there were tears streaming down her cheeks. She fell over on the couch and she began to cry. When she gained her composure, she said, “Rick, where did you get that story?” And then I told her about that morning. She said, “It makes me want to be a better mother.”

I also gave the book to my mother and brothers and that was it. I felt very successful. I had set out to make two copies; I now had 20 in print. But the next day, I received a phone call from one of my brothers. He said, “Your book has changed my life.” The next day I received a similar phone call and the next day and the next day, and three weeks later a woman called and said, “Mr. Evans, I want to tell you what your story means to me.” I asked, “Who are you?” She gave me her name and I said, “Where did you get my book?” She said, from so and so. And I asked, “Who’s that?” And I realized the book had been passed beyond my realm of family and friends.

A few weeks later, in February, I received a phone call from a local bookstore. The clerk had been going down the Salt Lake City white pages, calling all the R. Evans. By the time she got to me, she just said, “Hello, Mr. Evans. Did you write a Christmas story?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Oh good! Where do we order it?” And I said, “You can’t order it, it’s never been published.” And she was quiet for a moment, then said, “But we’ve had 10 orders for that book this week. Maybe you should publish this book.” And I thought, maybe I should.

You write because what you want to write matters and if what you write affects just two people in a powerful way, then it was worth it. If two little girls had read The Christmas Box and had understood that their father loved them, it would have been enough. If my mother was the only one who felt healed by my little book, it would have been enough.
From the December 2000 issue of Family Tree Magazine