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Hope Chest Heirloom (A Poem)

By Joyce Jacobo

[Author’s Note: Inspired by the hope chests sometimes passed along from mother to daughter. My mother has one received from my grandmother, filled with small treasures our family has accumulated over the years. It is a wonderful tradition.]

Her parents have a large cedar chest

   beneath the windowsill in their bedroom

   engraved with rosebuds along the bottom

   and a heart-shaped latch attached to the lid

As a child she would read while seated beside it

  because a distinct fragrance clung to the wood

  that put her in mind of a hike through a great forest 

      as if the memory of such a place still lingered

      even after generations handed down

      from one daughter to the next

“This is our Hope Chest,” her mother said

             on a bleak afternoon when the world

             seemed a complicated puzzle

             that she would never figure out

    “Years ago

      a young woman would collect

     everything she needed to begin a married life

     with her husband in their new home. But,”

        and here she smiles, “for you

           before anything else

              it will be an important heirloom

              filled with family history.”

Her mother opened the Hope Chest then

  and the hinges sounded like an ancient sigh

They gently handled the items within  

     from blankets woven on old-style looms

                 to family photographs

                 to graduation certificates

                 to medals earned 

Each item had a story

    or perhaps it is that her mother

    had a story for each item

She learned of the love

    her great-grandmother had for photography

    the book of poems given to her mother

               by her father when they dated

    among so many other things

            . . . even a record of her first steps

                                       and her first words

“You will contribute to Our Hope Chest as well,”

       her mother said

          “They are our treasures

               which someday I will give to you.”

Like a sacred trust of guardianship

   in which she has taken great pride       ever since that day.   


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