Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Hope Chest

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.

8 comments:

Flat Creek Farm said...

What priceless treasures! The hope chest is certainly a treasure in itself... a labor of love :) -Tammy

Joanne said...

I have one too, filled with many of the same things yours has. What a journey, opening that beautiful chest, feeling the oh, so delicate fabrics, breathing the scarest of aromas, finding all the hints of our lives within.

Country Dreaming said...

What a lovely chest and what great memories.
I am lucky enough to have my Mom's
cedar chest. She and I drove it to our home in Independence, Mo
from Kansas Cit, Ks in a tiny station wagon! It hold a lot lo om memeories for me.
Aren't we lucky to have these?
Enjoy!!

Melinda

Robin said...

What a beautiful post Karen. I have long been fascinated with hope chests, but alas, I don't have one.
I love the Double Wedding Ring Quilt that is in your picture. Can you believe that I just ordered a book with that pattern in it this morning? I have always, always wanted one of those quilts and by golly, I'm going to make myself one. Maybe I will need to get a hope chest to store it in!
Beautiful, beautiful words today!

Becky said...

What a beautiful post Karen. And such precious memories to pass down through the years. Lovely hope chest!!

Inglesidemom said...

That makes me want to run upstairs and open my own chest! I really need to go through and relive the memories and tell them to my daughters.

My oldest saw your hope chest and LOVED it!

diana said...

what a beautiful chest. and so special since it was handmade and painted. what a treasure, holding all your treasures.

i, too, have a cedar chest (store bought) and i love when i open it and relive so many of the memories that are tucked inside.

Rizzi said...

HI KAREN,
I REMEMBER THAT HOPE CHEST, HOW WONDERFUL YOU HAVE ALL THOSE MEMORIES. ESPECIALLY THE ONES YOUR MOM LEFT FOR YOU. UNCLE BILL MADE TWO HOPE CHEST, ONE FOR JACKIE AND ONE FOR JEANNE. I PAINTED FLOWERS ON BOTH OF THEM. I HAVE BILL'S GRANDMOTHER'S HOPE CHEST, I GAVE IT TO JENNA, SO SHE CAN HAVE SOME MEMORIES TOO. LOVE, AUNT RIZ