Monday, February 16, 2015

Some Day Box

Mother had a drawer full of doilies, crochet-edged pillow cases, embroidered dresser scarves, table cloths, napkins and even an embroidered antimacassar set that was used on the backs and arms of chairs. The items were made by the hands of relatives long gone and added too over the years by each generation. Now they reside in an old trunk in my home. I have no use for them but cannot give them up. They are my family history. They are tokens from the hands of the women in my family.

I just finished a great book The Last Runaway written by Tracy Chevalier. A good portion of the book has to do with a dowry. Quilts were made and given to the family of the groom. It was a long way from bringing two horses or a camel to the groom's family, depending on the country of origin. Yet, the dowry was an important item in the life of a young bride in Ohio.

Mother had a closet filled with old quilts and comforters. We didn't have new. We had old. Sometimes I wondered who had been sleeping under the blanket that presently covered me. I also wondered how often said blanket had been laundered. Needless to say, when it came to airing out the blankets at the end of winter, I prayed for a hearty breeze.

In reading this book about farm life in Ohio, I was awakened to many things I had not considered on the farm. How family farming evolved. Why children were encouraged to marry local. How a life of isolation formed a lifestyle that would be repeated for generations. The dowry eventually changed into a hope chest for a future bride. I continued with a Some Day Box for my children and grandchildren with items for their first place away from home.

Women needed to stay on the farm and close to home. A hope chest, a dowry, was set aside in hopes that a wife would be prepared well to set up housekeeping. In looking back at my grandparents, I can see the life shown in this book come alive. My grandmother was a writer. I know that she would have loved to be a novelist. Yet the marriage that her parents encouraged lead to her dreams disappearing with the sound of a train whistle. My mother would have loved to go to college yet my grandfather did not think that a woman needed a college education.

The Last Runaway is about Ohio in the time of the Underground Railroad yet I think perhaps a young woman who was alone in a foreign country might have wished herself to be the runaway.

A dowry. A good thing to be something of the past. A Some Day Box. A good thing to accompany those we love into the future.

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