Today's topic is Writing to Pay Attention.
Today’s assignment was to pay attention to an object that had some significance to you. I live in a home brimming with objects, many of which I am quite comfortable with. They are old, familiar, and like me, showing some wear and tear. But I am not a “things” person. I’m constantly trying to cull, to remove unnecessary objects from my environment. Therefore, this task posed a challenge. I had to choose an object that mattered.
I perused my home. I ruled out photos, which I do value, because they are not prized because of what they are, but rather what they represent – the moment of time preserved by dots of ink on a piece of paper. I did the same with art prints which are like old friends to me, but are representations of something else.
I ultimately decided on a miniature cedar hope chest sitting on my bureau which I have owned for over twenty years. It is still in excellent condition, the surface polished to perfection, smooth to the touch, appealing to the eye.
These 8 ¾” x 4 ¾” x 3 ¼” chests were made by the Lane company and given away by a local furniture store to all young women graduating from high school in the city. I imagine it was a marketing ploy by both companies in the hopes that we would one day purchase a much larger and more expensive Lane cedar chest or some other piece of furniture from the store. In my case, it did work. I ultimately did buy a large cedar chest, although it was an antique and from a different company, and I did purchase a bedroom set at the now defunct furniture store. Mission accomplished.
It didn’t matter. As a young woman, I loved that little box. It came with a lock and key which made it a perfect place to hide love letters, the kind that came on notebook paper folded into tiny squares or triangles, an art form perfected in the days before email and texting. A few years later, I would use the chest as the subject in a watercolor still-life. I don’t remember what happened to the original painting, but it lives on in a print hanging in my parents’ living room.
Today, the hope chest holds more mundane items: two combs, some ponytail holders, two hair clips, a barrette my daughter found at the park featuring the heroine from Tangled, a safety-pin, and a medal of our Blessed Mother - a somber visage on one side with a miniature depiction of Lourdes on the other. While I still own the key, I haven’t had a need to lock the chest in many years.
Still, I keep the box because of its simple beauty and because it serves as a reminder of the young woman I once was in a time that now exists only in the mist of memory.