Friday, May 04, 2007

The Hope Chest


Mine was the last of the clothes to be changed over from winter to spring. Yesterday, I pulled from my armoir wools and corduroys in deep purples and browns and emptied drawers full of heavy socks and flannel pajamas. I piled sweaters neatly on the bed and admired the rich harvest-colored, woolen rainbow.

I turned the key of the hope chest and breathed in the sweet smell of cedar that lines the insides. We purchased this chest in the first year of our marriage. We had found it in an antique store and I loved the feathery grain of the dark walnut veneer, but it was probably the ornate, golden key that sold it. Those were the days when I listened more closely to the whims of Romanticism. I have long since turned my ear to her more advisable elder sister, Practicality.

Practicality was standing strong beside me at that very moment, as she has been helping me to take a hard line with the clothing this year. A new theory I've hatched that too many clothes have been the driving force behind my laundry woes has me clearing dressers and drawers like never before.

From the chest, I pulled maternity clothes from when I was expecting Simeon. These were items that I never wore in subsequent pregnancies because I had learned not to wear them; items the industry has since learned not to make. There was the one-piece linen pants suit with the sailor-striped top. (One piece styling is probably best constrained to toddler sizes.) And there was the plaid jumper. I had thought I looked cute in this thing until I saw pictures of me in it. In the photos, the plaid had something of a doorknob effect around my belly and I didn't think that was good. I folded these and set them aside for give away.

Next, I found maternity clothes from my one and only summer pregnancy. The shorts were old and very worn as only maternity clothes can be. The tops were faded. I folded these, too. Among the more recently worn maternity clothes was a brown crinoline top that Simeon had said made me look like a "baked potato" (I had to laugh when he said this because it was... so... true.)

Then there was the HUGE wool sweater that my husband had bought me on our honeymoon. A much-too-large thing as he was always buying me things then that would fit HIM. He hadn't learned, yet, how to buy for me and I had never worn it except on the day he gave it and I set this aside, too. Then, I found a shirt that had been my mother's. It was an old shirt she had no longer wanted and let me borrow and keep when I needed to change at her house. Beneath that was the phosphorescent fuchsia scarf my late grandmother had knit for me. It was always here at the bottom of this chest.

I folded the good maternity clothes and placed them neatly beside the sweaters and socks and flannel pajamas. A cool breeze stirred and sunlight was pouring through my open windows and the sweet smell of cedar hung in the air. I looked up and Practicality was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, her younger sister was at my side. Quickly, carefully, she helped me to place everything back into the chest--the scarf, the too-big sweater, the clownish maternity clothes, the threadbare shorts, my mother's old shirt, the potato skin. Together, we placed all these back inside the hope chest, closed the feathery lid, and turned the golden key.

9 comments:

Mary Poppins NOT said...

O, Phew! I was getting nervous that you were letting go of those true treasures. Especially the scarf. No, especially the sweater. No, the maternity clothes. Hmm. I fear out cedar chest are remarkably similar~

Jane Ramsey said...

Sweet. So many precious memories. I love the "baked potato" comment!
BTW, my husband made the same mistake, buying those extra large sweaters. His reasoning? They're all made in China, and everyone knows that Chinese women are smaller! :-)

Ken Wills said...

I am just learning proper color selections for my wife. In the past I have always selected items for her in colors that I wear. She did the same for me. We are slowly learning. But the learning sure is fun!

Cheryl M. said...

I'm so glad you put it all back...and I love the ornate gold key. Very beautiful. In our family home we had a walk-in cedar closet...oh the treasures that thing held and the wonderful smell. :)

Elise said...

What a sweet post - so poetic. I do the same thing with our clothes - it is so hard to part with those memories!
I'm off to inhale the cedar scent of my hope chest, given by my Papa when I was sixteen...

Beck said...

Beautiful, beautiful!
I have a hope chest, too - given to us by my husband's grandfather when we got married.

Kristen Laurence said...

Suzanne, this is so tender. I always thought that chest was beautiful. You make ME want to start saving things!

Julie said...

Looks like a beautiful hope chest...filled with sweet memories!

Alice Gunther said...

Very well written and interesting. I loved the kicker at the end!