A chest full of memories
By Marv Kohlbeck
Most men, by nature, do not like to shop, especially at Christmas time. My father was no exception, but there is one special Christmas I remember from my early teens. Dad told us kids that all Mom wanted for Christmas was a piece of furniture called a cedar chest. It was something she wanted so she could keep special keepsakes of the family in it. We were asked to maintain silence and not reveal to Mom what Dad had planned on giving her for Christmas.
I do not remember the exact price, but it was in the $40 to $50 range, and that was quite a chunk of money out of a milk check from 15 cows on an 80-acre farm. But our father was determined to sacrifice other things in order to surprise Mom.
I remember the joy and tears on her face when she opened the large box near the Christmas tree. The aroma of a cedar chest is never lost or forgotten. Even today, approximately 70 years later, the same piece of furniture has a distinct cedar smell.
You might wonder how I know it still has that same aroma. Well, when Mom died at 85, about 20 years ago, one of my brothers suggested that instead of holding a public auction, that our family of eight should hold our own silent auction so we can keep mom and dad’s household items within the family. Bids were written on paper, and the highest bidder got the item or items on display.
Another suggestion was that each of us would be allowed to select one special item without putting a price on it. Being the second oldest in the family meant that I would get the second bid.
It seemed like NFL draft day as I wondered what my older brother was going to select. I was not interested in an antique rocker, bed, refrigerator, stove, or other items. My memories were of the cedar chest and how Mom treasured it.
The No. 1 selection by my older brother was made as he announced that he wanted the antique rocking chair. Yes, my draft choice, the cedar chest was still available, and I laid claim to it.
Dad’s love for Mom was expressed in his gift of a cedar chest approximately 70 years ago. To us, that was the true expression of Christmas. Mom kept it at the foot of her bed until her death.
For the past 20 years, the same cedar chest with the aromatic smell graces the foot of my bed just as it did for my parents so long ago. It now contains a variety of items my wife considers family keepsakes. To me it is a daily reminder of my parents and the Christmas memory they shared with us when we were children.