Like most kids I always wanted to pick up souvenirs when we would go places or do things. The urge, however, started waning before long and by the time I was in college I had scaled down most of my belongings to fit inside my two-door car. Of all my travels abroad, I pretty much only have an espresso set from Italy which I carefully brought back across the Atlantic after my first trip. I’ve saved some artwork from my kids and for each, the little tiny outfit that I brought them home from the hospital in, but that’s mostly it. I always like to say that I am a collector, but of memories, not things.
When it comes to ‘stuff’ and ‘things,’ most of what we have are hand-me-downs or furniture my dad handmade for us. We just aren’t ones to pour a ton of money into our home. Our living room furniture is from the rec room in my parents’ basement — it’s very nice, but they wanted the space for my mom’s quilting machine. The kids’ dresser is my own from my childhood. The kitchen table, my sewing table, our entertainment cabinet, and our bedside tables my dad made for us. Half the kitchen chairs are from my Grandma’s house. My dresser & the table the kids use for a desk were my Grandma’s, too. It’s a little ironic that someone who saves so little has a house full of furniture that are like souvenirs from three generations of my family.
This weekend, my parents made the trip down to our house with the new-to-me washing machine. It’s a long story as to how I acquired my parents’ ‘old’ washer (it’s only 3 or 4years old), but true to form I was happy to accept a not-quite-perfect item in lieu of having to buy brand new. Suffice to say the bar has gotten pretty low here for washing machine expectations and I’m just relieved and elated to be able to do full-sized loads of laundry again that don’t shake the entire house when on the spin cycle. This washer is the best early Christmas gift I could have gotten! In any case, in the interest of clearing out their basement for my mom’s new quilting machine, they also brought along this.It’s a cedar chest. Now the last thing I need in my tiny house is another piece of furniture, but most know that a cedar chest is as good as gold for a knitter as cedar naturally repels moths that can destroy items knit from wool. To make it even better, this isn’t just any cedar chest — it was made by my Grandpa for my Grandma (my mom’s dad) at about the time of their wedding in 1940. I had mentioned at one Christmas with my family that I would eventually love to get or make a cedar chest. A few days later on my birthday, my sister told me she wanted me to have this piece which she had previously asked to keep. And now here it is, in its new home.
I really don’t know anything about its construction, but I do know that my Granddad was relatively handy, so I assume that it was largely handmade for the most basic materials. It has some really lovely details.
And to my surprise, it contained some heirlooms…
I think the piece that gets me a little choked up is this though…
I don’t remember her making this in particular, but I remember her embroidering when I was little and even learning a bit from her. Her stitches are so neat & tidy even though she must have been at least somewhat advanced in age when she made these.
As someone who doesn’t hold on to a lot of ‘things’ like this — my initial reaction is that I have no idea what to do with these things. They are sentimental, but at the same time I just don’t hang on to things that I’m not actually using. This morning my daughter and I sifted through these heirlooms though and she was kind of wowed by them. I tucked them back in the chest.
To them, I added some of my own sweaters, including the very first thing I ever knit…
For now I just put in the sweaters that didn’t currently have a proper home, the ones I’ve been wearing most often, but there is plenty of room probably for my entire collection of knitwear. Obviously I’m ecstatic to have a place to store my knits that is safe from the dreaded possibility of moths. Even more though, in this house full of mismatched everything, of hand-me-downs and seconds this beautiful chest fits right in. And it feels just right to be the third generation to use this simple cedar chest that my Grandpa crafted nearly 75years ago to store my handknits, my heirlooms, and — in a way — my memories, too.