My Grandmother’s Hope Chest

Daily Prompt:   Antique Antics
What’s the oldest thing you own? (Toys, clothing, twinkies, Grecian urns: anything’s fair game.) Recount its history — from the object’s point of view.

My Grandmother’s Hope Chest

Old and cranky, yet solid and still useful as that day in 1910 when I went from being planks of raw cedar to the polished custom-made chest for an unsuspecting young woman’s hopes and dreams. I have been loved and cherished by only two women in these past hundred and four years. Early on my contents could be secured with a shiny brass key; long since disappeared in the journey from Sedgwick, Kansas to Seattle, Washington.

P1050524Cedarwood, that’s me – my raw, clean, aromatic and woodsy oil scent provides a welcome environment for the clothes, shoes, bedding and household goods entrusted to my care. The three decorative brass metal bands, today a tad tarnished, still remain along with the hand-crafted wooden feet.

Given as her thirteenth birthday present, my life began at the foot of a bed she shared with her sister. It was simple and uncomplicated for I held the beginnings of her future dream  life as a married woman. As Elyse’s Hope Chest, she contributed to my holdings with increased frequency over the ensuing years; yet marriage would elude her until she had reached her forties during World War II.

At her passing my contents contained the christening gown worn by her son in 1923, a cloth magazine constructed by a much younger Elyse, filled with the fashions of the middle part of the 1900’s, along with a few carefully placed newspaper advertisements for cigarettes and coffee. Two sets of beautiful, handmade Irish linen tablecloths and napkins, thin and threadbare along the edges where years of pressing with hot irons spoke to the love and usage at family meals. Barely visible was the delicately woven vine around the edge, still elegantly knobby to the touch. Wrapped carefully in old sections of newspapers were 6 salad plates and 6 desserts plates; hand painted by the first Mrs., with delicate flowers and leaves. Inside the remains of a tattered bath towel was a Chocolate Set, of French porcelain, it consisted of a pitcher and six tall cups hand-painted with grapes, each cup slightly different, nested carefully in one corner.

P1050533

Finishing off the contents were what one can describe only as a ‘man’s valet set’. A white porcelain tray set including, the tray, a small shaker for talc powder and a small rectangular box w/lid for cuff links or buttons; all hand painted with the Masonic Square and Compasses (fraternal organization) logo in gold leaf.

I remained in her loving care until her passing in 1974, at which time granddaughter Christine took me into her life. Since that time my contents have shifted and I have served as the receptacle for photographs, knitting yarn, theater programs and party invitations, been packed for moves with the treasured breakables and mementos of journeys far and wide and many of the aforementioned items waiting to be passed along and now have been, to Elyse’s grown up great-granddaughters.

I have had a good life. Hope is sometimes all we really have; caring for it is the journey. My journey continues with the next generation.

Yours truly- Elyses’ Hope Chest.

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