Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Hope Chest

By Cheryl Oreglia

I started a "hope" chest in 1970 with two embroidered pillow cases (white, with pink flowers) and a couple of dish towels. The name of the chest is a little disconcerting because the whole idea is based on the contents "hopefully" being utilized when prince charming comes along, tosses you a ring, croaks out a few vows, and switches up your name. I believe we refer to this as wedded bliss.

I added to my "hope" through my adolescent years, quilting a baby blanket in high school, inheriting a yellow tea kettle from grandma, embroidering more dish towels, and an apron. Are you getting the picture? I also received a Betty Crocker Cookbook which made me feel very sophisticated but did nothing to improve my talent in the kitchen. I considered myself a talented cook with no experience. I still have this book, the margins are full of warnings, like the time I heavily salted some fish and added capers for good measure. It was not edible and we had to throw thirty dollars worth of Halibut down the drain. The intention was worthy.

I'm better with linens. In fact I tend to horde linens because maybe they'll be useful "someday." Sadly I've had those pillowcases in my possession for over forty years and never used them. (I did the same with a rose shaped candle that eventually melted in storage) Recently I've been binge cleaning, I'll just blame Mom, every drawer in her house was neatly organized, and somehow she made this seem normal. I think it's outrageous that my mother can make me feel guilty about my linen closet from the grave. She was my world and now I have her spirit. Glory be...

I'm beginning to understand the popularity of If you Give a Mouse a Cookiebecause for me it started with the window seat in the old master, and believe me when I say one thing leads to another. My goal was to de-rat Dante's room literally (we added on to our ranch style track home close to twenty years ago and somehow Dante ended up in the old master). I told him to get everything out and we would replace his old furniture with a sturdy bed frame, side table, and chairs from Mom's guest room. A day later I was shocked to find all his belongings neatly stacked in the garage on an old comforter. My children totally pick and choose when to follow my guidance. It's a crap shoot and I usually lose.

Somehow we were able to fit a bedroom set, two recliners, and a small desk into his room. Extraordinary. I drove straight to Bed, Bath, and Beyond (coupons  in hand) because as you know the right comforter sets the tone for the entire room. I found the perfect one. I'm sure Dante is thrilled, he didn't say, but I could tell. As we were moving in the new stuff he mentioned the storage under the window seat was full. I took a peak and found it crammed with Julie's stuff (my oldest daughter), dolls, scrapbooks, and a bunch of teenage paraphernalia she left behind ten years ago when she moved away to college. Why in the hell am I storing all this stuff? She is married and has a home of her own.

I sabotaged her recent visit and started pulling things out of the window seat. Just like Michael J. Fox, she was slammed back in time, squealing with delight over a slew of long forgotten dolls. She quickly faced-timed her sister who was at work and found it difficult to fully share in the experience. We piled all those treasured possessions in the back of Julie's van and I waved good-bye to the clutter, the memories, and a piece of my heart. Nic (her husband) was not pleased. 

It reminded me of the time I went to the doctor about a rash covering my lower leg. It was all scaly and unattractive, the doctor who was examining me said it was due to stress? What? Apparently four kids, husband, dog, fish, arrogant cat, and out of control linen closet was stressing me out. I could leave or drink wine. I took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference...

But I digress, back to the pillow cases. I decided Larry's office also needed a makeover. I'm on a roll, move along, or get squashed. He has these samples stored in piles of boxes all over the room. It's not the first thing I want people to see when they enter my house. His office is positioned opposite the front door. That was a mistake of epic proportions. What's done is done. I flutter around saying things like, "he just got a shipment or he's reorganizing, this will all be gone in a week," which is a total lie. They've been there for a year and I see no indication that he was planning to store this mess any time soon.

Clearly he needs two shelves in my linen closet and I throw myself into the work. This is when I stumbled upon the embroidered pillow cases. They have yellowed over time but it makes them look vintage. I washed them up and this inspires me to revamp the guest room. It is now appropriately called the mermaid room due to the adorable bedding I spent a fortune on and Amazon happily delivered to my doorstep. I pulled out the old sleigh bed and replaced it with two twin beds. The bedding is now all color coordinated, it is adorable if I say so myself, and those two little pillow cases blend in perfectly. Who knew? I'm so happy with all of my little projects I might tackle the kitchen next?

I noticed Larry is developing a rash. Strange? I feel refreshed and unencumbered. I think I even lost a few pounds. My daughters had memory boxes instead of hope chests. I might rethink this strategy. We  take our "hope" with us when we move out but for some reason the memory boxes get left behindI think there is a message embedded in all this? Don't you?

Barbara Kingsolver says, "the very least you can do in your life is to figure out what to hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope." It all started with two pillow cases. Forty years later I'm decorating a room for my granddaughters. Who could have ever imagined my greatest joys would be resting their heads on pillowcases I embroidered with girlish dreams and a lot of hope.

I'm Living in the Gap, drop in anytime, it gives me hope!

What are you hoping for? Leave a few notes in the comments (I almost said closet) give me something to do besides redecorating. My husband would be grateful. 


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I'm trying to get rid of things in hopes of living a less cluttered and disorganized life. I like simplicity, but with 3 kids, I struggle to achieve it. I like this post. I love sentimental handmade objects.

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Thanks for the comment Kimberly! I do not understand how things pile up so quickly in my life, we have stacks of junk stored in the garage, side of the house, in closets, and in the rafters. Mostly things left behind by my older kids who have failed to retrieve them! I'm slowly weeding them out because I too enjoy the freedom of less cluttered! Let's do this!

Carrie Beckort said...

My daughter just turned 11 a few weeks ago. She's our only child, yet we still have most of her baby stuff down in our basement storage. Over the years I've slowly let go of a few unimportant things, but we still have so much. I think I always felt getting rid of it was like confirming we'd never have anymore children. Even when my head clearly knew we were going to be a one child family, I don't think my heart was ready to let it go. About a year ago I finally got rid of most of her old clothes. Baby steps. But I do think it will be good for me once I can finally clear most of it out.

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Eleven is an enchanting age for a girl, she is on the brink of so many discovers, but still in possession of her true self. Some years you wish you could have back and live them all over again, others not so much. I feel better and better each time I let more of my stored junk go, it's painful as hell, but so freeing. Keep at it Carrie, I think it is good for our souls to travel light. Thanks for reading.

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