I’ve always just called it the cedar chest but I think it was meant to be a hope chest. The place where a woman gathers her linens and household items in preparation for marriage. Later to become the repository of baby books, dried faded roses and a maribou feather stole worn to prom some fifty years ago.
I remember the cedar chest as being around in the periphery of our life when I was little before it ended up being left behind in the flotsam and jetsam of a marriage dissolved.
The cedar chest took on a new life with the coming of a stepmother. Suddenly it was made useful again; painted avocado green as was the colour-in-vogue at the time and was adorned with a bright fluffy cushion and placed in the floor to ceiling window to be reborn as a window seat. It quickly became the favoured perch of the cats. Perfect for watching the world go by and cat-napping in the warm afternoon sun.
Redecorating brought out the shuffle of the cedar chest yet again. This time to be moved out to the barn and used as a grain bin. The sweet warm grain smell building on layers of the scent of cedar.
Crossing the border into Canada with the rest of the family possessions, the cedar chest wearing its beat up coat of avocado from the 1960s lived on as storage for winter boots, unused sleeping bags and camping tarps along with the hopes, wishes and dreams it had been filled with in a time before.
Packing up the farm to move back to the city, the stepmom says “do you want this thing? It was your mother’s. Otherwise it’s going to the dump.” And of course, I said yes.
Bringing the cedar chest home with me, it was reborn as the layers of avocado paint were very carefully stripped away. Although the cedar chest had been used roughly, it came back to life with gentle coaxing. I could even see the faint outlines of silver design ribbons that ran along the edges in its original finish. My delight in finding the original label on the inside of the lid, and finding the tray somehow still inside the chest as I filled it with my treasures.
My grandmother said she cried when I she got the picture in a letter I sent to her. She wrote back to me in a letter I still have, telling me that Grandpa had given the cedar chest to her as an engagement present in 1922 and she had later given it to my mother. It came from the furniture store in Oregon City where I grew up.
I don’t really have anyone to give the cedar chest to. It’s a plain, quiet piece of furniture that doesn’t scream “take me” so I don’t know what its next reincarnation will be. Wishes and dreams are important to me and the memories that come from chasing them and once in a while catching them are held in my cedar chest.
The enduring quality of cedar with the magic of the hope this chest has held in nearly one hundred years gives me the feeling that it will find its way to where it’s meant to live after it leaves my house and my life.