It was a day in early autumn, a season that snaps with cold in the Ozarks.  The farm land that hosted my grandparents two-story home lay in silent reprieve, preparing for the long winter that promised to blanket the earth in snow not many weeks thereafter. But, as if to ward off the impending cold as long as possible, the sun peeked through the October clouds and smiled weakly as four figures hurried across the sleeping landscape. A huge building that once served as a chicken house was their destination. My family made an annual trip from our home in Texas to visit my grandparents on their farm in Arkansas. My grandpa was an auctioneer in those days, and over the years he and my grandma had collected a vast reserve of auction “left-overs” that varied from worn-out knickknacks to valuable antiques. To my sister and I, who loved to dig through junk of any type, these castaways were treasures—and the chicken house was the chest where all our riches were stored! Every year, MeMe let us search through all their auction goodies, and this was the day she had promised to let us go on another treasure hunt. Two bright, expectant faces peered into the dusty dimness as the door of the chicken house opened with a groan. Dozens of boxes lined the walls on both sides and littered the floor space in between. Our eyes widened in delight—treasure chests, all of them!

With wild enthusiasm we delved into our cave of riches, flitting from box to box like a pair of happy pirates. Our dear grandma, ever generous and giving, bestowed upon us treasures to our hearts’ content. There was every sort of imaginable gift for Mom and Julie, but the ones that stick in my mind are the ones that MeMe gave to me.

Kristy's Hope Chest

You see, on that chilly October afternoon in Tonitown, Arkansas, the smallest beginnings of a dream were born in the heart of a young girl. I don’t remember when it was, whether it was on that day or some other like it, that MeMe asked a very important question of her soon-to-be-grown-up granddaughter. “Do you have a hope chest yet, Kristy?”

“No, what’s a hope chest?”

“It’s a trunk full of things you collect to use some day when you get married,” MeMe explained.

My eyes must have sparkled… it sounded just like a treasure chest full of dreams! From that day on, I knew I was going to have a hope chest. But… what ever would I put in it?

There, in that dusty old chicken house, with a smiling heart and face, I found the treasures that became my hope chest. There was a little set of dishes, pretty ones with pink flowers and gold etching. I didn’t mind that they were cracked and yellowed. Who knew what they might actually be worth!  There were also two oval, wooden pictures with pink and yellow flowers on them. MeMe pulled from one of those boxes a wooden apple she’d painted years before. I claimed it immediately! She inscribed on the back in black ink, “To Kristy, I love you! October 1994.” Now, at the grown-up age of thirteen, I had a hope chest!

Of course, it didn’t start out looking like what one might imagine a hope chest should look. My “hope chest” had the very humble beginning of appearing to be an empty copy paper box. It soon grew to two and then three boxes, all full of the hopes and dreams of a young girl looking toward that grand thing called marriage. I have to admit, there were some days that I didn’t have much faith in ever getting to use those treasures. The growing pains and uncertainties of my teenage years earned the little set of boxes a nickname… the hopeLESS chest. But still I filled it with dishes and towels and doilies and all the pretty things I wanted for my future home. Eventually my hope chest received a promotion. MeMe found an old trunk in her attic and decided that it would be my high school graduation gift. I was ecstatic! Finally, a real hope chest! My little belongings moved into their new home, where they stayed for only a few years. Then the seasons of life changed, as they always do, and one Spring brought the peal of wedding bells to two hopeful, youthful hearts.

Now that old trunk sits in the living room of my very first home, the home I share with my husband Jeremy. No longer is it filled with a dreaming girl’s collection of knickknacks; into its wooden walls were placed the treasures of a wedding: a bridal bouquet, a groom’s boutonniere, a cake topper, a feather pen, a flower girl’s basket, still filled with soft, pink petals. That trunk isn’t just a cradle for hopes and dreams, but now of memories of the sweetest and dearest kind.

And what became of all my youthful treasures? Two oval-shaped pictures hang on my bathroom wall; the soft hues of the pink and yellow flowers match so nicely with the decor. A hand-painted wooden apple is the most cherished decoration in my country apple kitchen; I think of someone special every time I see it. There are dozens of odds and ends that greet me as I go about the daily tasks of house and home. Each of them provokes a special memory, a smile, a laugh, when I think of who gave it to me and when. And some of those special treasures take me back to a cold day in autumn, when a simple dream became a hope… and at last a reality.

4 Comments

  1. This re-post brings back so many wonderful memories, Gretchen! Thank you for dusting off some of those early articles. 🙂

  2. Alexxus H. says:

    *sigh* I want a hopechest so much. 🙂 I’m eagerly scouting garage sales and thrift stores for a lonely little chest in need of some “hope” (my word, that was cheesy…). Anyways, this story was sweet and encouraging. Thank you!

  3. Such a cute story!!

    I don’t have a “real” hope chest – mine is more of a collection of books and DVDs to learn from. Maybe once I start making things those will go in there too.

  4. sweetmomma says:

    This was exactly the article that introduced me to YLCF in the first place! I was looking up hopechests on google and it led me here. That was back before I was married and a mommy too. It’s amazing how things have changed since the first time I read this and now!
    Thanks for all the reposts! It’s been a wonderful month of them!
    Much Love!

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