In case of fire or flood, some of my precious possessions would not be salvaged. Even my hurricane evacuation plans don’t involve rooting through my cedar chest to rescue treasures such as notes passed in high school, scrapbooks with black and white photos stuck in corner tabs, my stuffed kitty crib toy and a tin coin from Hersheypark. That heavy trunk has been with me through too many moves to mention since my parents bought it to match my white bedroom furniture in the early 1960s. Yet I rarely open it.
Today I did, though, to add another keepsake—a People magazine featuring the life and death of President George H.W. Bush. I’m saving newspapers and magazines about major news events for my grandchildren. When my sons get to this part of my story they will shout, “GONE” … I know it!
A peek inside:
The Color Day pennants from high school in Chambersburg, PA, are my dad’s, red and white, and mine, blue and gold. Also pictured are high school newspapers, an autobiography I wrote as a young teen, a yearbook my friend Chris and I wrote when we graduated from grade school, and my favorite photo album with the paint-by-number cover.
Back in my day, and way before that, girls had hope chests to collect clothes, linens and household items in preparation for marriage. Families still often use the cedar-lined chests to store clothing, blankets and other fabrics to keep insects away from them. Here’s a Lane ad, circa 1960:
Although furniture companies and carpenters still make and sell cedar chests, using one for a trousseau appears to be obsolete. A quick survey of my granddaughter and a few of her classmates at Penn State yielded this text: “None of us has one and we don’t really know what a hope chest even is, lol.” My niece, also in her 20s, said she loves her two cedar chests that belonged to her mother and grandmother; however, I doubt that she uses them for their intended purpose.
Truth is, nor did I.
In fact, I recall only two items that I purchased to store in my cedar chest for later—a rolled-up print of “Christina’s World” by my favorite artist Andrew Wyeth, which is still framed in my home, and a Fisher-Price musical toy clock that fascinated me when I worked in a toy store one Christmas in high school and that I wish I had kept after my toddler sons nearly wore it out. When they were adults I gave them their baby books, report cards and other mementoes that I saved in my cedar chest, but I still have a few:
Definitely, I inherited my mother’s sentimentality. As a child, it was magical to help her lift the massive lid of her chest, smell the cedar and play with the jewelry in the bins on the long shelf. I still have a shell necklace that Dad brought back from the South Pacific after the war for her. After she died my sisters-in-law and I emptied it, marveling at the things she kept, some of which are in my cedar chest now. Like locks of my hair and baby teeth, and my First Holy Communion dress, purse and prayer book stored in a paper bag from a Main Street store in my hometown.
It’s comforting to know those things that tell the story of my life are still there, even though they are neglected most of the time. Maybe someday I will purge much of it before my family has to. Maybe not. Meanwhile, my treasure chest sits in my guest room where it holds suitcases of visitors, many from back home who helped me make the memories within.
What’s in your cedar chest?