Heirlooms of Hope & History

Granny, Uncle Jim, and my mother before WWII

Granny kept her honey-colored cedar chest by a window in the front bedroom. She laid crisp white doilies on top to protect her treasure from scratches. There she displayed framed portraits, always the same until her grandchildren began to graduate from high school.
            She chose a tiered shelf of dark mahogany to place my graduation picture. “Your Uncle Jimmy made the frame when he was stationed in Hawaii and shipped it all the way here to Phelps,” Granny once said.
We both felt special.
           I have Uncle Jimmy’s frame and my younger likeness overlooking me as I write. Various china teacups fill Granny’s shelf in my dining room. I think my grandmother would smile upon the lovely table they set.
An Appalachian farmwoman who buried two babies, one teenager, and her husband, Granny cherished her dining room cabinet that chinked with fine china when her heavy feet passed.
           I don’t possess Granny’s Lane hope chest that neither dust nor moth corrupted. In her old age, she sewed her burial dress of white polyester and placed it inside the cedar with instructions to style her hair.
Granny’s mortal body had suffered too great a decline for either request to be honored. Aunt Eloise inherited and refinished Granny’s Lane masterpiece. My aunt stored mementos of her five children inside.

My mother kept her hope chest in our basement’s furnace room. I can only surmise it’s because our three bedrooms were too small to accommodate the case. Twin to Granny’s, the poor thing never saw light of day, companion of castaways and winter coats preserved in mothballs. If I hadn’t been afraid of the dark, I probably would’ve stolen the chance to rummage through its contents.
By the time of my wedding engagement, my parents had divorced. Preoccupied with the joy and burdens of hosting my reception, the tradition of the bridal hope chest fell by the wayside. 
Five yeas later, Mom resurrected her bequest from the bowels of the house and moved it to the basement in her new Kentucky home. Perhaps dashed hopes belong forgotten in basements.
Because two cedar chests abandoned by two daughters occupy our two bedrooms upstairs, Mom’s Lane remains in my basement, covered with a polyester quilt. Guess who sewed it.
Inside, on the upper left shelf, there’s a yellow hand-knitted baby sweater with matching beret Mom claimed mine—and my wedding gown, badly abused when I portrayed the bride of Frankenstein for Halloween over a decade ago.
Mom never said and I never asked who purchased her Lane heirloom—who invested hope in her marriage vows. Was it Grandpa, the man she adored, or Granny, the mother she left?
And how did my great-grandparents have the means to purchase Granny’s cedar chest in 1920?
Dear Reader, I’m resolved. Mom’s Lane has suffered enough neglect. It’s time to restore the honeyed glow on her keepsake and give it a sunny window.
Let the light shine on hope and history.