A hope chest. All of us over a certain age remember what that is/was…. A special place or box, or even a cedar chest- where we were supposed to store all sorts of domestic “goodies” that we were saving for THE DAY we were finally wed. Blankets, quilts, tablecloths, towels, flatware, and whatever else suited us. When I was a senior in high school, a local furniture store gave all of the girls, a miniture “hope chest” made of cedar- about 10 inches long and 5 inches wide. With a key and everything! This was where I kept all the love letters I got from my highschool and first year of college sweetheart. 🙂 About a year later, I began seriously dating a different young man that I realized would become my husband one day…. and so, I started the hope chest. No, I didn’t have a real chest, in fact I honestly can’t recall where I put all the stuff I began collecting. I bought blankets, sheets, and towels at the “white” sales they had at JC Penney’s and Sears. And I went to craft shows. I still love going to craft shows… it was there I purchased my first piece of ‘original art’ that still hangs in my house today. The fruit bowl, painted onto what appears to be a simple piece of wood. Signed by “E Aust”, whomever that may be. The towels and sheets are long gone, but “The fruit bowl” is still with me. And I still love it.
My mom had a hope chest too – a cedar chest, really. It sat in the basement (and still does, at my dad’s house) and once in a while she let me poke my head into it and see all the treasures there. Still lying in there to this day is mom’s Skunk Jacket (sounds wierd, but was so pretty!) and her Muskrat Coat & hat- which was apparently all the rage back in the ’40’s! What was even better, were letters, written when mom and dad were first married in the early ’40’s. Dad had made a trip up to Alaska to work for a few months, and that was their means of communication. Also stashed in there was my ‘mini-hope-chest’ full of old letters sent to me, from the aforementioned ‘first year of college sweetheart’. He’d made the big jump to the state University, while I’d stayed at home attending the local community college. I left all those letters amongst mom and dad’s letters -in what I thought was the most appropriate place, the cedar/hope chest. It’s not that I was hoping to rekindle the love from that time, just that I was ‘hoping’ to preserve a part of me, from 1973-74. One day a few years ago, my mom phoned – “I just want to let you know Susie, that I have burned all the letters from that hope chest”. My heart nearly stopped. SHE BURNED ALL THOSE MEMORIES? I asked, just for clarification… “mom, you burned all the letters from you and dad”? “Yes”, she answered, “and all the ones from that boyfriend of yours too. After all, thats certainly all in the past”! I was stunned. Speechless. If I recall correctly, I may have even dropped the phone, or cut off the conversation very abruptly – until I could compose myself. OK, yes, she had the “right” to burn the letters that were written by her and my father — although I was HEARTBROKEN that she had done it. BUT MY LETTERS?! I sat down and cried. And cried. As silly as it may seem, I felt like a part of myself – what was really and truly ME, back in 1973-74, was gone. Well, it was. And I was honestly furious that mom had decided to destroy it all, without so much as consulting me. I was pretty steamed about it for a few days. But, in the end, I wasn’t willing to risk a relationship with mom over some letters that were 25 years old. I forgave my mom – thank the Lord. And yet, as I think about the contents of the hope chest that went up in flames– my dear mom and dad’s love letters…. as well as the numerous letters from my very special guy (of the time), I still get a very sad feeling that falls over me. A time in the past, unable ever to be recaptured.