Just before I graduated high school, I got a notice from the main office that a local furniture store had a gift for the female graduates in the Class of 1984. Turns out, this furniture store gave this gift to graduating girls for a long time before me and would continue to do so after me. Or, at least, they were still doing it six years later because my sister also got one when she graduated in 1990.
After school one May day, I drove downtown to Holiday Furniture in my baby blue Chevy Luv truck (thanks, Dad, for my first car), parked in front of the Holiday Furniture Store. At the counter, I explained why I was there. From a giant cardboard box, the woman retrieved a wooden box. She handed it to me and wished me well.
I loved that box. Small. Cedar. The brand of the box was Lane®. I learned from their website, the company started as a cedar chest manufacture in 1912. During the four years I attended NYU, it held jewelry and other small trinkets.
Then…tragedy. Maybe not true tragedy but it still made me sad.
I feel like I can remember packing the cedar box into a moving box to be shipped back to Wyoming. Somehow, it never got unpacked on the other end. The only thing I have even been able to imagine happening to it, was that the brown color blended with the color of the cardboard box and I just never saw it. So I never removed it from the moving box.
Every once in a while a gossamer-like thought floats through my head and I wonder what items will I never see again from inside that cedar box. There are only two things I can assuredly identify as lost forever, both necklaces. And I know the way I pack, making use of all the space. So even though that box was small (9″ x 5″ x 3.5″), there is no doubt it was stuffed full. Yes, maybe it was only underwear, socks or pencils but sometimes I find myself wondering if it held something really great, something I just can no longer grab from memory.
The two necklaces are very clear in my mind’s eye. A teardrop ruby (my birthstone) with a gold chain my mother had given me for a birthday gift one year. On a delicate silver chain, the other was a silver bell with a tiny pearl for the ringer. I never wore the bell but I sure liked it. It was my flower girl gift from about 1971. The younger brother of the bride served as the ring bearer. Their parents were my godparents.
Years after I grieved the loss of my cedar box and its known and unknown contents, I mentioned it to my sister in one of those random conversations. She replied that she never used hers. That’s how I ended up with a second cedar box. By the time my sister graduated, the furniture store had changed its name to Pathway Furniture. Mine, memory tells me, was darker with a reddish hue. Prettier. But maybe I feel that way for the sole reason that it was mine. No photos exist of the first box.
Before starting the downsizing process, I owned three jewelry boxes. Two had to go, including the cedar box. I still feel more attachment to and loss of the prettier one I owned for only four years than I did to my sister’s which I possessed for 25 years. Still, I took a moment before deciding to include it in last summer’s garage sale. I ran my hand over the smooth finish. I stuck my nose inside one last time to inhale the smell of wood, remembering all it had kept safe over the years.
At the garage sale, a young woman picked it up first. She looked interested and asked if it came with the key. Until she asked, I’d completely forgotten it had a key since I never locked it. I told her there was no key. She returned it to the table. Later in the day, I watched an older woman pick it up and tuck it in the crook of her arm. Price: $5.
I hope she gave a good home to the box. I hope she enjoys years of use from it the way I did. It’s unlikely graduating girls get gifts from local businesses anymore, but I am happy I got mine (and my sister’s). We had many good years together.