I have a big cedar chest, you know, the kind that was called a hope chest in years gone by. You were supposed to fill it with all of the things you would need when you got married, which you hoped would happen. Too funny. I received mine when I turned 18 and got married when I was 19, and I'm pretty sure the only item that got tossed in there in preparation for my marriage was a very 1980s peach satin and lace baby doll.
No, mine was a time capsule from the beginning. My prom dress, my cap and gown, my diploma, and other reminders of high school. Also the baby blanket my grandmother crocheted for me, my baby shoes, and an impression of my hand made when I was five years old. There is a stuffed squirrel (made for me by my great-aunt when I was two, which was right before she had her first stroke), the gloves I wore in a wedding when I was four, and the two flower girl dresses I have worn. After the wedding in went my bouquet and garter.
I open it so very rarely. These days it resides in my walk-in closet (is it a walk-in closet if you can only take one step into it?), hidden by the hanging clothes and the multitude of items that get stacked on top of it. Roller Blades, anyone?
Last night I was on a mission. I had just finished a short knit scarf and was thinking ahead to chilly weather ~ I would need a brooch to fasten the scarf. My brain immediately thought of the small stash of costume jewelry that I received when my grandmother passed away 20 years ago. I had to open the chest to find the jewelry.
Well, the jewelry wasn't perfect, but I'll make something work. It was far more interesting to get a glimpse into the top layer of the chest. I think the first item that came into focus was a Mother-ease Popolino diaper circa 1998. Then there were the little baggies with teeth in them (I'm disorganized, they aren't all labeled, and in the end I will have to tell my boys that I have no ideas which teeth belong to whom.) Pulling up the box of jewelry I saw my oldest son's first pair of shoes, and then my veil, and the sarong I bought in the Bahamas. I didn't have time to linger. I quickly glanced at the tray which holds smaller items, and my eyes lit on an old linen handkerchief.
The kerchief was given to me by a friend in high school. Her grandmother had made it; she had dozens and offered to let me choose one to keep, since I had recently taken up embroidery. The kerchief is as light as a feather, with a delicate design. Her grandmother had hemmed the linen herself, and embroidered a tiny oval of flowers. There is just a tiny amount of pulled threadwork.
(I'll have to post a picture once I carefully launder and press the kerchief.)
As it often goes with me, the handkerchief stirred something in me, something less related to the object and more related to life. I always have something to learn.
You see, the kerchief is faded and yellowed, the linen dehydrated, and the folds deep. It has been tucked away, unused, and unloved. I was raised to put away lovely things, old things, special things. My mom has a hope chest turned time capsule, and so does my paternal grandmother. We hide these things, these most special things, because using them means that they might get lost, or ruined, or worn out. We are afraid to love them and use them.
Some things of course we probably aren't going to use again. Baby shoes. Bridal veils. Lost teeth. But some things we could use and love. A handkerchief, a brooch, a lace collar, a bookmark, a sarong.
Why are we saving things for the future? Why do we spend our lives waiting for what is to come instead of living now? Why do the future lives of our children hold more weight than their lives right now? Why do we wait for tomorrow, when tomorrow may never come?