Hope restored

 

My wedding gown and my father's Marine uniform in Mom's hope chest

Dave the plumber arrived at 11:30 a.m. Monday morning and followed my husband to the basement posthaste.

The sounds of drilling and flowing water through pipes from below soon provoked a smile. After the smelly, inconvenient emergency of leaky sewage pipes, the repair progressed.

Within an hour Dave bounded up the steps. Considering my mother’s motto, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” I asked what caused the problem.

“Follow me,” Dave said and returned to his completed project.

He eyed the large pipe along the wall where I’d recently noticed broken plastic brackets that had supported the pipes for thirty-two years. Dave pointed to new metal brackets. That’s what the drilling was about.

“Those supports won’t break,” Dave said. “The pipes are back in position and everything’s good.”

With this assurance, Tuesday morning I returned to our disinfected basement and applied Howard Restore-a-Finish to the exterior of Mom’s cedar chest.

It hurt to see the wood badly abused. Considering the history of my heirloom, the numerous Kentucky and Michigan basements where forgotten, my TLC was decades overdue.

The refinishing application dried while I revisited the chest’s contents—what Mom and I once thought significant to save for posterity. I found the darling yellow crocheted infant sweater and tammy hat on the narrow shelf attached to the underside of the lid.

Everything in my mother’s cedar chest tells a story I well know, except this darling handmade gift that welcomed me into our family.

Three Carter’s baby shirts from 1970, 1975, and 1976 also occupy the upper shelf. Becky, Kelly, and Ruth, my children, wore those teeny “kimonos,” as their Nana called them.

Mom's cedar chest in process of restoration

I dug within the chest and discovered the long, white gloves, muff, and red velvet dress I wore as Maid of Honor for my older sister’s wedding December 28, 1968.

Mom accommodated a houseful of out-of-town guests for her firstborn’s wedding. Her brother wrote a timed schedule for our one bathroom and taped it to the door to ensure we all made it to the church on time, bathed and shaved.

In March of 1946 when my mother wed, how could she imagine such a family celebration when she filled her Lane with linens and other wedding gifts?  

And how could I foresee my wedding gown would occupy the same trousseau with my father’s two Marine informs? One the military brown shirt with blue pants, the other a blue jacket with red piping and brass buttons.

Three generations weave together my family history with the scent of cedar, lavender, and wool. Each item speaks hope restored, even in the deep loneliness of separation and death.

Dear Reader, someday, after I’ve refinished my heirloom to the best of my ability, I will elevate my inherited Lane to my master bedroom. I have more keepsakes to add.

Meanwhile, my treasure chest is safe in the basement. Dave said no more leaky pipes. And I’m taking him at his word.