Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Hope (05/04/06)
TITLE: Mom's Hope Chest
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It's a good sized wooden chest, held up by four rather chunky cylindrical legs, enhanced with artistic carvings. It was crafted and bought in the early 1900's. The patina of the dark brown wood has long since faded and when polished now it greedily soaks in every drop of oil, leaving behind an uneven pattern. Decorative carvings and wood beadings adorn three of its sides, while the back is drab and plain.
The skeleton key that unlocks the lid is well worn, but still works. The inside walls of the chest are lined with a heavy, almost cardboard type of paper and the smell of cedar is still alive and always surprises me when I open the lid, as it reminds me of my mother. This special piece of furniture is more her than anything else that she has left me. It speaks to me in memories.
The one significant story it evokes is the dark period that my mother dealt with when my father was embroiled in a gambling addiction. His behavior was rarely talked about and only whispered amongst the closet of family members and best friends. Our pastor knew and he counseled and prayed. My mother held on to that and refused to consider divorce, something her best friend often proposed in a sorrowful, careful way.
Instead, she used the hope chest to hide the household money from an addicted husband who would frantically try to cover his weekly losses with the local bookie. So she hid the key to the chest deep within the drawer of her sewing box, where it lies even today.
As a child I knew that this piece of furniture was special to her and must hold some sought of magic, never knowing that most often it held the only means to buying our next meal or paying the rent. For, behind the cardboard lining, a small section had been carefully pried open where she could hide money from a desperate addict.
After she died, I unlocked the hope chest and carefully examined each precious item that it held. Then I found the spot, the magic spot, and as I carefully pulled away the lining my fingers grasped an old ten dollar bill that was waiting to be found with a story to be written.
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