When I was preparing to leave my mother’s house and begin my life as an adult, she and I built a hope chest together. It was a big maroon footlocker, in which we placed things I was going to use in my new home. Some of these things I still have, like a set of decorative porcelain bowls. Many of the things were baby items, as I was already pregnant.
This ended up being a rushed job for me because we started building the hope chest late. Some parents create their hope chests almost as soon as their baby is born.
More parents, however, have never heard of hope chests. At least, that was the impression I got when my older daughter turned thirteen last month and I started talking about building her one. So, in an effort to help my fellow parents of teenagers out there, I wanted to share our hope chest building experience so far with you.
What is a hope chest?
Traditionally, a hope chest was a big cedar chest that mothers and daughters filled with useful things that the daughter would need in her home. This was back in the days when a young lady would create a home for her husband and children. When husbandry was an art highly treasured. Women started creating these early because they would largely be filled with handmade items like sheets, blankets, towels, rugs and baby clothes. Nice dishware was often included if the family was well off enough to afford it.
While the days of the happy homemaker being a woman’s only option in life are long gone, thank God, a hope chest is still a good practice. In five years my kid is leaving my house for a crappy college dorm, or a crappy first apartment. She’s going to need blankets and curtains, towels and wash clothes. She’s going to be all on her own, broke and probably cold. (Excuse me while I go hyperventilate for a second.)
Not just for girls!
If you have a son, I do suggest making a hope chest anyway. We don’t teach men how to create homes they’re comfortable in, and I think that does them a disservice. If you have a son, you should be teaching him how to keep a home comfortable, do minor clothing repairs and cook a few simple dishes for himself. He should also go into the world with the means to make his home comfortable without a girl.
Start with the box
We’re still on the lookout for the best box. By the time I find one, I’ll probably buy two. My other daughter is turning 13 in August. (Pray for me.) I want to find them something sturdy. Something that can be a coffee table or extra seating when needed. Something big enough for us to fill, yet not so big that two people can’t lift it. Something that, once all of the needful things have been taken out of it, can be used as a memory chest. I don’t have mine anymore, and I’m kind of sorry for that. I wish I’d kept a hold of it. I’ll encourage my daughters to do so.
Modern twists and traditional items
Of course, this is the 21st century and we like functional things in our house. So there’s not going to be a lot of fancy in this box. There will be no tatted lace or decorative things. There will be warm blankets, and we’ll be hand making that. But there will also be a tool box so that if something breaks my daughter can fix it. There will be extra charging cords for whatever electronic device she leaves my house with. There will be a bible, probably with a couple hundred bucks tucked in the book of Ruth. (Why the book of Ruth? Because it’s my favorite.) There will be a blend of the traditional handmade items and practical modern accessories.
With my kid’s permission, I’m sharing with you the list of items we’ll be collecting over the next five years. Many of these things will likely not suit your needs or taste. But it’s a place to start if you are ready to begin building your hope chest with your child.
A copy of The Bible. (Money to be inserted later, without telling her.)
Pots and pans
Salt and pepper shakers
rug for the floor
What do you think of the hope chest tradition? Do you have any suggestions for the chest that I might not have thought of? Let me know in the comments below.