A Lifetime in a Hope Chest

September/30/2009 15:22PM
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In yesterday’s blog I wrote about the death of my Mom, one of the Greatest Generation.

She kept a hope chest all her life. I remember poking around in there a bit as a kid, but most of the contents were pretty boring for a kid.

After we celebrated her life and reconvened at my sister’s house , we gathered in shifts to sift through the contents of the hope chest.

It was like reviewing her 95 years of life, plus that of 3 generations of family before her. What she considered a key event in her life or that of her family went into the chest. Her birth certificate, her marriage license, our old report cards, my ROTC brass, old newspaper clippings of my high school sports career, a newspaper article where my brother and a friend went into a house on fire and got some kids out when they were only kids, and pictures, pictures and more pictures. Pictures going back to the 1800’s .

Letters my Dad wrote to her when he was in the navy in WWII. The letter he got from Admiral Forestall for serving his country in time of war.

Every family member got a chance to pick out the items they wanted to keep. It was like a huge scrapbook in a big box. There was a lot of teasing about some things that may have been serious 20,30, or 40 years ago but were pretty funny today.

As I was watching and picking through Mom’s life it occurred to me that it was the end of an era. With electronic communications, there won’t be hundreds of letters in a hope chest 50 years from now.

One of my grand kids said she was going to start a hope chest. She found the idea very exciting. Like many ideas it is easy to wish for, but hard to do. Takes a lot of dedication to keep pouring your life into a box and to haul the box from place to place for 70 years. Life got more and more complex and sophisticated over those 70 years but there were items in that chest about my 3 year old grandchild, so Mom still found a way to keep the hope in the hope chest alive.

I don’t know how often she opened the chest and looked at the things she found important in her life, I never asked. My guess, often.

Funny how little things in a box add up to the history of a life where most hopes were met and dreams fulfilled. It kind of makes one wonder if all the technology we have today is better than a box full of memories that get a little yellow, smell a little musty, but are so tangible, like a letter or a picture or a piece of ROTC brass. I am pleased that the idea of a hope chest still appeals to a 13 year old granddaughter.

This is a story about real hope, not Obama hope.

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