I've introduced you time and again to my grandparents. At the cabin, around the table, in our knits, and in the kitchen we're reminded of them often. Today I stumbled upon a treasure box that had escaped my recollection for nearly nine years. My hope chest (here's a definition for those new to the custom). Lupine and I were in the basement and I spied a familiar plastic tub in the corner. How I have not noticed it for the past many years I'm not sure.
Grandma Lee put together a hope chest for both my sister and me, her only grandchildren. Mine always sat inside the back door of her walk-out basement, an old steamer trunk she lined with white and red contact paper. It smelled of moth balls and was one of favorite place for me to go when we'd visit. I'd sit on the tile floor and pull out the many handmade treasures that would be mine someday, spreading them out on the floor and imagining the life they would belong in when I was grown.
I don't remember when exactly she passed ny hope chest along to me. I suspect it was when I moved away from home or perhaps on a milestone birthday, like when I turned 18. (She was fond of special-long-awaited-gifts-for-milestone-birthdays.) The hope chest was never tied to marriage – my grandma didn't live to see Pete and I marry just a few miles from her home, alongside the river that flowed past her door – but was always about growing up. Nearly everything inside was made by her hands.
When I got my first apartment I dug out some (hand knitted) washcloths and a few dish towels, along with the pots, pans, spatulas, whisks, and silverware she also provided. Years later when Sage was born I pulled out all of the hand-knits that my kids have worn these many years – ponchos, mittens, sweaters, hats, and some blankets. I saved the rest for a future day, determined to bring them out slowly over time so that I could enjoy them forever. And then I forgot about them all together. Until today!
Everything that was hiding in the trunk needs a little love – some oxygen bleach and time in the sun and perhaps a good ironing. But I just had to share them with you today – wrinkles and all.The detail work on the embroidery is amazing and the colors and patterns are a window into another time.
Sure, the hope chest is an old fashioned custom, but as long as we make them for our boys too, I say let's carry on with it. Preparing our children for moving into their own homes and their independence while providing them with a bit more of that handmade mama- (or grandma- in this case) love? All the better.
Here are a few of the treasures we found:
These pillowcases are embroidered with bluebirds. Bluebirds!
This afghan was on my bed as a child. The pattern was in the knitting stash I inherited when my grandma died and is scribbled across the top with her hand-written notes. The tag on the afghan reads "Made with love by Grandma". Aw.
One of two sets of day-of-the-week towels. The tasks per day are consistent across both sets (evidently I'm suppose to clean on Friday).
Appliqued pillowcase detail. So amazing!
I'm thinking that some of these fingertip towels will find their way onto my kids' clothes – as pockets for Sage and apron front skirts for Ms. Bluebird.
And a post script: As we sorted through the treasures I noticed this: Lupine's sweater. Lupine was wearing a too-small-but-well-loved sweater made by the same hands that created all the goodness in this box. And Sage? He was wearing socks that I knit for him and the pants he made himself. So the tradition continues. We live, we love, we craft, we give. Thanks for all the magic, Grandma.