For my 18th birthday, I received a most precious gift, when my parents presented me with a hope chest. What made it special is that they had made it themselves. My dad crafted it from wood, with a tray that nestled inside to hold smaller pieces, while the bottom was cedar lined for blankets and quilts. My mother painted the chest, in the Pennsylvania Dutch motif that I loved.
Through the years, it has held many treasures, beginning with the mementos of my high school days -- my letter sweater, yearbooks, scrapbooks, and childhood memories. As the years have passed, the contents have grown and the hope chest seems to have grown, too, with room for so many more hopes and dreams and precious memories. Opening the top, my heart swells to see, tucked in the folds of my bridal veil, my baby's first pair of shoes, linens stitched by my grandmother's hand, my first rag doll, the thick woolen pram blanket that covered my brothers and I in turn.
A stack of faded and yellowing cards and letters are tied with a ribbon. When I flip through them, the handwriting of loved ones calls out to me. A long, plain brown box is carefully labeled by my mother's flowing handwriting, the contents being Grandmother's baptismal candles.
Another box contains the family christening gown, labeled in my own hand, and noting all of the babies through the years who wore it and the dates of their baptisms. There's a card from my husband, that came with the flowers he sent when our daughter was born. The top to our wedding cake is carefully wrapped in tissue and snuggled in an old, worn knitted hat, the same hat I'm wearing in a picture taken when I was about two years old.
Bronzed baby shoes, Girl Scout badges, baby sweaters, and the little Batman cape that my son wore every.single.day for a year. These are the memories that come pouring out of the chest, wrapped in the sweet aroma of cedar. I breathe them in, filling my heart with the sweetness of the moments that make up my life.