My Mother's Hope, 1940 World War II and a Handsome Sailor
This beautiful aromatic cedar hope chest was given to my mother in 1945 a year or so after she was married. Dad was a machinist mate on the World War II destroyer tender Piedmont. This didn't mean much to me until I had become an adult and learned the history and ramifications of this horrible war.
My mom passed away last year at the young age of ninety three, I was given her hope chest.
And the chest I received certainly did not look like this...
With delight I started to rummage through mom and dad's past. Not until I found the bundle of tied love letters, did I slow down and show the reverence this prize contained.
As a child this chest was always in my parent's bedroom. I was not allowed to open this treasure without mom's attendance. I remember vividly the fragrant cedar smell as this "secret" chest was opened.
Although the inside was beautifully intact, the exterior had been painted and was now an old cracked and peeling white. I could see damaged and peeling vanner had been sanded and puttied.
But I had no idea where or if I wanted to have this in my own home. Other than a sentimental value, it was in very poor shape.
When a small child's mom had painted her hope chest an antique cream. I didn't know why or even cared at the time.
With a certainty, the paint could and was a lead-based paint. I wanted to be careful with how to proceed.
With my face mask on, I began to lightly sand the top, where I could see the most damage. As I lightly sanded the front of the chest I began to see a sunburst pattern of light ridges appear. I hated to ruin the chest with indiscriminate sanding, so I slowly did bits at a time. As the sunburst pattern became more and more apparent, I knew there was a beautiful secret behind all the old white paint.
With a bit of research, I found that The Roos Corporation of Forest Park, Illinois was a manufacturer of these fine cedar chests.
With aromatic cedar as the interior and the front an inlaid book-matched rosewood and other precious woods, my mothers chest is truly my new treasure. With a last 400 grit sanding, I used a boiled linseed oil to bring out the distinct patterns and colors. As I run my hand over the surface it feels like fine silk.
With the sweet memories of my mom and dad and their sixty-plus years of marriage my sentimentality came to the forefront, and I did not completely refurbish my treasure. I chose to keep a bit of my mom's paint and still enjoy the beautiful woodwork.
I love this piece of my parents history and will enjoy having it in my bedroom for the next fifty years or so. Then my daughters can fight over it...
Thanks for visiting. sk on elderberry