Friday, December 14, 2018

Hope and Avon Bottles

(Originally published in the Miami News-Record)

Hope and Avon Bottles

Mom’s hope chest was a crate of mystery that loomed ever so sternly in the corner of her room, never giving hint to the wonders inside. It wasn’t ornate, but beautiful nonetheless. I didn’t dare look beneath the lid; Mom made it clear Sis and I weren’t to touch it.

I have no idea how old I was the first day she opened it up for me, but I can still see the day in my mind like it was yesterday. It was summer – the curtains which usually kept her room dark were pulled back  and the windows were open. Her room looked entirely different in the summer sunlight. When she opened the lid I half expected brilliant light to burst forth from its depths. Instead, the smell of cedar wafted out into the room. I craned my neck to see inside better.

On top was a picture of a girl with BIG HAIR. I wasn’t sure who it was at first until Mom pulled the picture out and held it to where I could see. I knew immediately it was her. Her beautiful eyes still sparkled even under that big ol’ bouffant. There was a photo album entitled “Our Wedding.” Black and white photos of my very young parents made me giggle. My dad was super skinny. My mom under that seemingly ever-present bouffant looked radiant. There were pictures of Memaw and Papa’s dairy farm -  Memaw smiling in the backyard, young and happy before she got sick. Mom pulled out some very official looking slips of paper – savings bonds. Grandpa Glenn had bought them for Sis and me when we were born and she said someday they would be worth more money. I quickly planned all the things I would do with that money. (Whatever age I was, I was still young enough to think $25 was enough money to live like a queen.) There were old Avon bottles that smelled weird. Mom said those were going to worth more money someday, too. I didn’t see how and thought she was very silly for putting an ugly bottle shaped like an old car in her hope chest.

My own hope chest sits at the foot of my bed. It jumps out in front of me and stubs my toes in the middle of the night and makes me say bad words. It’s always covered in stuff. Right now I see a power strip, four bandanas, a set of Tupperware bowls for when Kady moves out and I have no idea where to stash them in the meantime, a curtain, and a Scentsy warmer I keep forgetting to take to work. My Senior picture doesn’t feature a bouffant, but that giant 1991 Aqua Netted, permed ‘do makes my girls cringe. Inside aren’t many pictures, but approximately 4,762 notes from DeLisa, Stacie, and Chloe, all folded intricately, some labeled “DO NOT OPEN – PASS TO KRISTIN *ONLY*.” I remember when the things in those notes were so important to our very existence. Now I shake my head over them and cringe a little myself. Stacie and I have been writing letters since college and they’re all in that chest. My letter jacket was in there until I cut off the letter and threw the jacket away. My Senior memory book, Senior shirt, one of my graduation announcements, and a few leftover wedding invitations are sitting atop the Bible Mom got for graduation and the Bible Nana gave me when I was Baptized. And if you’ve still got a cassette player you can borrow my Village People tapes that are housed in there, too.

I don’t get into it very often because that involves me having to clear the stuff off the top and ew, housework. When I do, though, I’m instantly sucked into hours of pilfering and remembering. And buried deep within are my share of Mom’s Avon bottles. They smell even weirder now. I don’t have much hope they’ll be worth a lot of money, but for some reason it just seems right to keep them there.

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