Sunday, November 30, 2008
Parable of the Cedar Chest
I don't actually know if this qualifies as a parable, but I like the idea of writing my own so I'm going to go with it. Also, I've decided to name my children for the blog--#2 was slightly offended at her nickname here so I've dug deep and gotten creative.
Jeanie--14 year old girl
Lou-Lou--12 year old girl (who will probably hate this name too)
Little man--9 year old boy
KB--7 year old girl
On with the story . . .
As a teenager I wanted a cedar chest. I had a few friends that had them and I thought they were so cool. Being one of 9 kids meant I didn't have much privacy and I was always scouting out little places I could keep things safe. At 14 I got a trunk for Christmas. It's plywood, with sheet metal overlay and fasteners. It was not a cedar chest, but I loved it and covered it with bumper stickers (including the one that says "Olympus Soccer: We Kick Balls" I was a classy kid, what can I say?) It had a key and it was my own little space. Over the years I stored journals, letters from my hubby, and other mementos. When I got married, it was one of two items that came with me (the other was a rocking horse my uncle made for me as a child--I still have that one too). I added my wedding veil, the cards that came with my wedding gifts, and some baseball cards I hoped to one day make a million dollars off of. I loved my trunk and only the most valuable things went into it.
For my 4th wedding anniversary my husband bought me a real cedar chest. The old trunk went into the closet and the new chest became a treasured piece of furniture, quickly doing it's job of preserving the most important things I wanted to hold on to. It was oak--which I didn't love--and so I refinished it in black a year or so ago, sanding the edges to give it an antiqued look.
Last year, I gave Jeanie a cedar chest for Christmas. We bought it used (new ones are several hundred dollars) and we refinished it after the holidays. For me, this was a powerful gift to give. Jeanie will be eighteen in only 4 years which seems like an incredibly short period of time. I wanted to give her this option of saving some of her youth while also preparing for her future which was coming up quickly. She was very positive about it and I just felt like I'd done a very good thing--giving a gift that will last a lifetime.
Last month, we bought a cedar chest at a charity auction. I sanded it down and was getting ready to paint it for Lou-Lou--excited to once again give a gift that, in my mind, is almost priceless. However, Lou-Lou found my Christmas list and read it--pronouncing bluntly that she didn't want a stupid cedar chest. She wants nail stuff, and CD's, not furniture. I was very annoyed at this--not only because I'd already invested in this gift but because it's a GIFT. That means I choose it, not her. I felt she was being very bratty about it, and yes, my feelings were hurt.
Amid all this I remembered the new knobs I'd bought for Jeanie's cedar chest last year and had never put on. So, I went and put them on only to find that after owning the chest for a year, she had put absolutely nothing inside it.
Then my husband said he thought we ought to sell the cedar chest and get Lou-Lou something she really wants.
Argggg! I was getting it from all sides and reviewed my options. In a rare moment of wisdom, I chose a route I don't often use. I decided to try to teach something, rather than pout.
Tonight, I invited Jeanie and Lou-Lou into my room. I told them how I'd wanted a cedar chest as a child and why it was improtant to them. I told them about my trunk, and then I opened my cedar chest and showed them the things I keep inside. Signed copies of my books that I will one day give to my children, copies of my books I sign to myself when they arrive. A newspaper from the olympics, the blessing dresses of my children that I will give them when they have kids of thier own, recipe books I've collected for my daughters, a pillow with a copy of my engagement picture on it, an extra wedding album in case something happens to the one I have, a time capsul Jeanie made in Kindergarten, a box full of mother's day cards and little notes the kids have given me over the years, the blown glass flower that topped my wedding cake, a blanket my freind quilted when Little Man was born. After we went through all these things I explained to them that even if I lost it all, I'd have the memories of these moments and they are the most powerful thing, but, I love having these tangible reminders. I love to touch the letters they've given me, I love knowing there is a safe place for my treasures. I explained that my giving them cedar chests is so that they can also find those treasures and save them for their futures. I then said that I realized it might be an old fashioned thing, that if they don't want the cedar chests we can sell them, they can keep the money and spend it on something else, but that I believed that the chests were something that twenty years from now, when iPods and CDs were a thing of the distant past, they would remember that their mother gave them a cedar chest. That one day they might pass them on to their children, and that when they left our home, they would take this little peice of it with them.
Lou-Lou promptly reported she wanted her cedar chest. Jeanie asked if she could have her signed books to put in her own. And me, well, I'm a little tender hearted at having forgone my usual bullying style of parenting and having this moment with my girls who are so precious to me, and are growing faster then I can keep up. Now and then I do a really good thing--creating these two wonderful daughters were two of my very best.