Saturday, October 15, 2016

Inside My Mother's Cedar Chest

At an early age I was aware the big box thing sitting in my parents' bedroom was called a cedar chest. I even knew it was made out of mahogany. I didn't understand what any of that meant. But I did understand how much it meant to my mother because she told me it was where she kept her favorite things. When you tell a kid that, curiosity sets in. I know it did with me.

Every year, somewhere between spring and summer, my mother spent a Sunday afternoon gathering her good sweaters. There were quite a few of them. My mother loved sweaters. She'd wash the sweaters one at a time in Woolite-then spread each one out on the kitchen table on top of a towel. Once she had a sweater just as she wanted it, she'd roll it up in the towel and go to the next. After she'd rolled the last one, she'd set the towels with the sweaters on the dining room table to dry. Then a few days later she'd unroll the sweaters. If need be they were put outside on clothes bars to dry some more. The end of the sweater process was the folding of the sweaters and meticulously placing them-one at a time-inside the cedar chest. And there they stayed until the season demanded their return. Whenever that was it never failed-they all smelled like moth balls.

Sometimes I'd spend time with that mahogany cedar chest. I'm sure my mother knew since the moth ball smell probably gave me away but she never said a thing. Maybe she liked knowing I was curious to see what she considered her favorite things. Truth be known I was never disappointed since she was always putting things in it.While there was a key in the lock, it was never locked. Maybe that was because the top was heavy. It took both my hands to pull it open. Once I'd secured it in place, I took my time examining the three small compartments greeting me. They were like little drawers without the drawer. One time I found my father's good cufflinks. I think they'd belonged to his father. Usually there'd be fancy hat feathers wrapped in tissue paper. Back then, women made their own hats and wore them when shopping. I'd also find linen handkerchiefs and fur collars to attach to good sweaters and fancy plush boxes holding strings of pearls. One particular compartment held a small photo album. She never changed the photos. They were of her wedding to my father in the dining room of my grandparents' farmhouse.

The rest of the cedar chest was full of good blankets and quilts and embroidered tablecloths starched and ready for the holidays. My most favorite of my mother's favorite things were the Christmas stockings. I never disturbed them. I wanted to make sure they were there when needed.

I have no clue what ever happened to my mother's cedar chest. I am thankful I was curious. I'll never forget her favorite things.

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