Every night when I get it bed, I stare at a small wooden oriental jewelry chest: It’s black and has colorful flowers painted on it. It sits on top of a tall slender cupboard across the room. And it’s not a typical jewelry chest for it looks like a miniature wardrobe: It has two doors that open and a drawer underneath it on the bottom. It wasn’t mine as it belonged to my mom but the odd thing is that I never knew that she had it until she died.
The second odd thing is that I got one when I was eight years old: I distinctly remember my grandmother taking me to the movie theater to see “Peter Pan.” After leaving the theater, my imagination was stirred to the nth degree as I’m sure it did most kids seeing it for the first time. We had taken a bus to the movie and took one back near her house. The bus stopped near a pub that was frequented by everyone at that time. It wasn’t sleazy but a place that not only sold food and beer but also magazines and you name it.
My eyes looked up to a high shelf and there sat a black oriental wooden jewelry box with hand painted flowers. Lust set in: I just had to have it despite that fact that I had no jewelry other than the play type. Yes, my grandmother bought it for me and I carried as if I were cradling an egg in my hands until we reached her house.
Upon going inside, she went on with whatever she had to do and I headed for the couch in the living room. As I sat there I explored the jewelry chest; it was so beautiful, loved the flowers that had been painted on it and the closer I got it to me, the more I smelled a distinct smell. Whether it was the lacquer that had been used on the chest or the type of wood that smell was unique and to me, it smelled good.
Placing it carefully on a table in the living room, I went off to see what my grandmother was doing. She was cooking dinner as my grandfather would soon be home and my parents would arrive to pick me up and drive me home to St. Albans. My mind was still in the “Peter Pan” mode and I was thinking how cool it would be to actually fly when I saw my grandfather open the front door and walk down the hall to us.
The normal conversation started about what had happened that day for him and for us. I told him about seeing the movie and about getting the black oriental jewelry chest and yes I could see a gleam in his eye. He knew I could talk my grandmother or him into almost anything within reason. “What did you do with it?” he asked. “I put it on a table in the living room; want to see it?” Off I went with him following me. As I showed it to him I could see that he liked it for his job was a furniture buyer for a huge department store in town.
“Take good care of it” he told me. And I assured him that I would for not only did I love it but associated it with the movie I had seen.
It wasn’t too much longer that my parents were at the front door to come to get me. It was the norm many times for my grandmother to fix extra food for dinner and give us a huge basket of hot cooked food that we would eat later when we got home. The next thing I remember was sitting in the back of my dad’s car with a wicker basket of hot food beside me and the black oriental jewelry chest in my hands.
When we arrived home, my dad carried in the wicker basket as my mom helped me out of the backseat along with my prize possession. I dashed through the front door and headed for my bedroom so that I could place it on my chest of drawers. Dinner was eaten, dishes washed and since it was a Friday it meant that the weekend would be free and wonderful.
When I got in bed that night I stared at the black oriental jewelry chest: It had two doors and a drawer on the bottom. I loved looking at the painted flowers and got up to smell the smell of the wood. Sleep came easily to me with dreams of Peter Pan and receiving an ultimate gift.
Forward in time and with many moves, I still had that beautiful jewelry box until one day I realized that it was gone. Whether it got thrown out in packing boxes used for moving or broken to bits was never known. All I knew was that it was gone and I was heartsick.
And yet unbeknownst to me, my mom had the very same jewelry box but where had she kept hers all those years? And why had she never shown it to me or given it to me since mine was gone? Those questions wouldn’t come forward until I was an adult with grown children when my mom died. Imagine my surprise when I found it in the bottom of her dining room buffet: The flowers were pinker than mine had been and yet it was the very same.
As I stood there alone in her apartment, I held the chest close to me so that I could see if it had the same distinct smell and to my surprise it did! A swirl of thoughts rushed through my head: Did she take mine? Why did she never show it to me? And what were the odds of the both of us having the very same unique jewelry chest? As for my last question, I’d have to answer “Slim to none.” It was more than coincidental and yet mine had pale pink flowers painted on it while hers had dark pink flowers on it.
Yes she could have painted the flowers a darker shade of pink. And yes, it could have been mine but you can’t imagine the shock I felt when I found it. I took it to my house, as I was the administrator of her estate and an only child, and once again I cradled it in my hands as if I were carrying an egg. Images of the trip with my grandmother that day to see Peter Pan and the bus trip back where I received the jewelry box, came rushing at me with full force.
All of a sudden I was eight years old again holding a prized treasure—at least it felt that way. It was the first thing that belonged to her that I put on top of that cupboard in my bedroom. That was almost fourteen years ago. And every single night when I get in bed, I stare at it from across the room even though I could stare at a lot of things.
Sometimes I get up, open its doors and smell that unique smell. It brings back incredible memories of a wonderful day long ago and yet it also makes me wonder if it were mine. For whatever’s sake at least I have it once again—or hers and that’s a good thing. It’s unique although probably not valuable but the smell it has evokes good things of a wonderful day long ago.
It truly is the little things in life that matter the most.
Sherry Hill
Copyright © 2015
Sherry Hill
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