The Memory Keeper
From Dianne Nault
Slowly, I turn the slender key in the lock and listen for the faint click as the latch opens. Lifting the lid, I peer inside and even after 75 years, I can still detect the faint scent of cedar. As I breathe in the woodsy scent, I close my eyes and remember when…
This hope chest has stood like a silent sentinel at the foot of my bed for many years now. And once, long ago, it did indeed hold the very essence of “hope”: anticipation for the times ahead, dreams of a future marriage and still unborn children, looking forward to years to savor and a lifetime yet to be realized. My mother must have treasured this chest as an omen of all the good things to come.
Now the polished wood with its front panels of marquetry looks strangely out of place in my bedroom. What was once a chest brimming with “hope” has become a relic of the past, a sarcophagus holding the memories of days long gone-by. The chest bears witness to the passage of time and its purpose no longer radiates out to the future but rather reflects inward.
Reaching inside, I smooth out my mother’s wedding dress and veil, the pale ivory satin yellowed now but still frothy with delicate lace and tiny pearls. There are boxes of faded photographs of family and friends long since dead. I open an envelope with the photo and the papers that recall my father’s years in the Army and see the pride in his eyes as he looks back at me dressed in his WW II uniform. My grandfather’s gold pocket watch and my grandmother’s flowered brooch are there as well, tokens of a more elegant time. I stroke the lock of hair from my younger brother still curled around the snippet of blue ribbon. The school mementos, baby books, birth and death certificates, even old greeting cards for birthdays and holidays, they all lie within, whispered echoes of the past. What a collection! A hodge-podge of random memories, a chronicle of a family’s history.
Today, I add a few more things: hand knit sweaters for babies long since grown, my son’s journal from second grade, a photo of my daughter on her wedding day, birth announcements for my two grandchildren. The chest is not yet full; surely there is more room to add other layers to this legacy. Scanning the contents once more, I slowly, gently close the lid. Turning the key carefully, I hear the latch click shut. I slip the key into my pocket and wonder…in another 75 years, who will be the caretaker of this hope chest? Who will be its guardian? Who will become the new memory keeper of my family’s history?