The X Page: A Storytelling Workshop

The Jewellery Box

by Seemab Zahra


It is July 1992 and I am ten years old. I am sitting on my bed, in front of my dresser, holding the most beautiful and magical jewellery box in the world.

This dresser belonged to my mother. It was given to her by my Nana for her wedding. But I don’t want to tell you about my vintage dresser. I want to tell you about the jewellery box I am holding. 

My brother brought it for me from a trip to Islamabad. He is my only sibling, so we are very close. We play cricket; he teaches me how to catch the ball. We fly kites, make
mud houses in our backyard, play tennis, and cook strange recipes. He is my best friend and I feel we are inseparable.

He is only two years older than me, but he often gets to travel to far off places, unlike me. But he always brings something back for me, something that surprises me. 

How does he always know what I want?

I have never seen anything like this jewellery box before. It looks like something from a fairy tale. When you open it, music starts playing. On the lid is a mirror. Inside is a doll and two beautiful ducks that dance as the music plays. When the music stops, you can wind it up again. 

Summers in Multan are very hot, and it is a summer day today. We have only one air conditioner in our home and my room doesn’t have one. Even though my room is very warm, I love sitting here alone. Sweat is rolling down my face like gems and pearls as I pick up an earring and put it on. 

Sunshine sneaking through the drapes is lighting up the jewellery box and making it look even more dazzling. It is as if I am in a theatre; music playing and dolls dancing while I dress myself up on a hot summer day. 

I am the luckiest girl in the world because I have this jewellery box.  

It is December 2005, and I am cold. I am in Toronto, unpacking my suitcase which is full of bridal clothes, jewellery, and all the gifts my family gave me at my wedding. 

This cold December day is freezing the blood in my veins. They say that it is all psychological, but trust me, it is not. When you feel the Canadian cold, all the quotes become cliches.

How am I going to live here forever?

My wedding was planned in a hurry because my in-laws had to travel all the way from Canada to Pakistan and could not stay for long. I did not have much time to sort through my old things and had to pack quickly. And I could bring only two suitcases. Neither of the suitcases had the space to pack my childhood. I had to leave behind everything: my books, my decorations, my clothes. And my jewellery box.

Someday I will go back and get it. 

It is April 2024, and I am still cold. I am sitting in my home in Kitchener. The weather is pleasant but still not warm. We haven’t turned off our central heating yet. Nights are especially cold.

For the past year, my brother has been living with me, my husband, and our children. He has just come home from a short trip to Toronto. In my hand I have a Sephora foundation and a few lipsticks that he has brought back for me. I love all the colours, but the foundation surprised me because how could he know what shade I use? For ten long years when he was in the UAE and I was in Canada we didn’t see each other, and even now he is still bringing me gifts. How did he know I wore Light Sandy Beige? 

How does he always know what I want?

Did you think he would bring me my jewellery box? Did you think this is how my story would end? No, he didn’t bring the jewellery box. I don’t know where it is. Maybe somewhere in my parents’ house in Multan. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is my brother. What matters is the people we love. Not the things they give us.