I remember my mother's cedar chest with its distinctive aroma when I'd open the lid.
Old baby clothes, my very first doll, pictures, embroidered tea towels (does anyone use embroidered tea towels any more?), things that were important to her and therefore meaningful to me.
A family treasure chest.
Now so often our important memories are stored in plastic boxes.
Nothing wrong with plastic storage boxes, understand, but your grandmother's favorite quilt deserves better, don't you think? A Hope Chest is simply a wooden chest or box, a storage unit full of items that have been gathered, perhaps for future use, maybe just as memories.
Make the Hope Chest out of cedar and you have a cedar chest.
Fill it with memorable items and you have a chest of dreams.
Thought of like that, a hope chest is rather like a large wooden scrapbook.
My daughter creates wonderful scrapbooks for my grandson.
He calls them, "The books about me.
"She saves the most minute items for inclusion in his books, and he's always bringing things to her "for my scrapbook, Mama.
"My mother did the same for us, but she saved the pieces of our lives in her cedar chest.
Several times a year we'd coax her into unlocking that mysterious chest that always sat in her bedroom.
She'd take the items out one by one and tell us the story of how it came to be in the cedar chest.
Much of the treasure of the chest had to do with memories of the past kept alive by our interest in the stories that accompanied them.
But other items were more of the hope chest/dowry type.
My mother loved to embroider (hence the embroidered tea towels), so she made embroidered pillow cases and dresser scarfs (please tell me you know what those are!) and saved them carefully for use in our future homes.
And I have a suspicion that the chest with its handy lock was the receptacle of our Christmas gifts that were bought or made in the months before Christmas.
It occurs to me now that a slight aroma of cedar was always part of the smell of Christmas at home.
It's good, the popular interest in scrapbooking to save memories.
I wish, however, that the tradition of giving a cedar chest to a young person - boy or girl, young man or young woman- to commemorate an important event or birthday would revive.
It's difficult to scrapbook a wooden Bible box or a metal Tonka truck or a packet of hand-written recipes.
But they will all fit comfortably in a cedar chest.