When I was in college, one Christmas my parents presented both my sister-in-law and I with identical handmade cedar-lined hope chests.
Mom had asked a man in our church parish, known for his woodworking, to make them. I knew she was excited about them - it was the sort of thing she had always wanted.
I was still in college and so we agreed that my parents would keep my hope chest in my bedroom at home until I had enough space to have it in my own home.
Since then, I have moved several times. Always to a small apartment, with a small bedroom and no space for the chest that measures about 50 inches long.
My mom has been disappointed, as she really wanted me to have it.
She also senses that the style of the chest just really isn't my style. I don't really want it. I sort of had it in my mind that I would just hand it down to my oldest niece... so that she and her sister will have matching chests (the younger sister would get their mother's).
I also thought that when I had a house one day, it would go in the guest room to store my memories and treasures.
But I still don't have that house.
The point of a hope chest in my mother's day, was for a young woman to store the little lovelies she had collected to set up house with her intended. A place to keep the needlepoint she'd learned to stitch, the quilt she made with fabric scraps... maybe some flatware and silver ware. Then later to store her wedding gown so she could hand it down to her daughter.
It wasn't meant for a 40 year old woman to stuff full of things in case she one day finally gets married. In our day and age, that would be considered pathetic.
And over the 20 years from when a young lady is issued her hope chest, to when she realizes she'll never need it - her taste would change anyway! Those items were intended to be home starters... to be implemented within 5 years, assuming she didn't become an old maid.
This week, I've been thinking about my hope chest. How it ought to go straight to my niece now, because she is in that stage of life, starting out on her own.
Thinking about how it may never end up in my own home.
Then it occurred to me - that the man who made it - worked for hours planing and sanding wood, joining corners and screwing in hinges - who is long since deceased.... quite likely prayed over that project. He knew my parents. He watched me grow, Sunday after Sunday in Mass. Perhaps he prayed for a happy life, blessings of children and family - for warm blankets and abundant food for my family.
Like my parents, it never occurred to him that I would spend my life alone.
Still, I shall imagine him praying over the construction of that chest and know that no prayer - even those unanswered- is ever wasted.