Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bama's Old Cedar Chest

St. Eva the Good had determined that a yard sale was in order. I would rather serve 100 years in Purgatory than set up or go to a yard sale, but my help was enlisted, perhaps "mandated" is a better word.

And so on a beautiful Saturday morning, I found myself rummaging at the storage shed rather than mounted on my motorcycle. I do not know why I agonize over this, but I just hate to sort through old "stuff." My stuff or someone else's...It matters not. Box after box was removed to be opened and contents catalogued on the gravel driveway. And then I stumbled across it. Bama's old cedar chest.

My Mother, Bama as she was affectionately known by her grandchildren, was a notorious pack rat. When she got married in 1937, the first two pieces of furniture purchased were a bed and a cedar chest. Now, I could understand the bed, but a cedar chest? Why not a kitchen table.. a sofa or a chair? My father once said that Bama just had to have a place to store her "stuff." It was her treasure chest.

Once, I recall my brother Denny and I playing "hide n seek" in the house with Bama. He was three and I was seven. We searched everywhere for her. Now we had a small house: two bedrooms and just one bath. She was nowhere to be found. As a last resort, we went to the old cedar chest. With trepidation, we slowly lifted the lid. There was Bama, stretched out with her hands across her chest and a plastic set of Dracula teeth in her mouth. I think the spot where we stood took about a week to dry, and to this day, I cannot open the lid without expecting a surprise.

And upon opening her cedar chest on this bright and clear Saturday, surprises were still in store. I was overwhelmed with the things she so treasured. Letters and cards wrapped in ribbons..newspaper articles that I had written, along with reviews of my past theatrical endeavors, grade school works of art along with report cards which all too graphically showed she raised no scholars.

But then as we began to dig, we found the items that touch the most: pictures... those old pictures, ghosts from the past, that wring out a cascade of memories and the mist of tears. That's why I do not like to look through old "stuff." It's just too painful, especially when I found pictures of me and my first girl-friend, Anne Tucker, mugging like goof balls. Oh,the agony of viewing the ravages that time has wrought on that once thin, handsome and even innocent face.

It is unfortunate that future generations of treasure hunters in old cedar chests will be denied the "agony and the ecstasy" of viewing old photos, showing the faces and scenes of times past. One of the unfortunate bequests of the digital age is the fact that pictures are no more than "bips and bits" residing on hard drives or CD ROMS. Drives crash. CD ROMS? They will become useless, since they will be rendered technologically all of those 8 millimeter movies my Dad has. No projector exists today to play them.

So to satisfy future cedar chest explorers, make sure that you save a few things to reward their search...newspaper articles, 2nd grade art works and most especially printed photographs to visually illustrate the way we were and can never be again.


Goodnight, Mom said...


I used to love Bama's old chest. I'm so sorry I was not there when you guys opened it! She was such a special person.


Laura said...

I remember sitting among all kinds of stuff on the floor of my grandmother's house long after she had died and we needed to sell the home. I went through boxes and boxes of musty, dusty precious things like cards, letters and photos. My grandparents also liked to write poems down...not create them but copy them into little books, making a collections of their own favorites. I read every one-scripted in their perfect penmanship.
I agree- even if it's only a shoebox full of stuff, we should give our relatives something material to hold in their hands that shares a bit of our life story after we are gone.
Lovely post. Great Sunday evening reading.

Gordo the Byzantine said...

That was a special day...all sorts of great memories in that chest. I look forward to pulling it out of storage and exploring some more!


Average Joe said...

Hey dad I found your website finally. It only took a month.