The tradition of a hope chest is centuries old. This was one of the ways a mother had of wresting money or material out of the tight grip of the husband to prepare her daughter for her married future.
The hope chest was the focus of a young girl and her mother. It was a place you could store your dreams. It was the place you tucked away the lessons of life. The pillowcases were embroidered. The linens had crocheted edgings. The sheets were hemmed and stitched to match the pillow cases.
There were clothes called a trousseau that represented the girl’s ability to sew and to save her husband from the expense of clothing her for the first year of their marriage. There were baby clothes and linens prepared for the child that would surely come exactly nine months after the wedding!
The hope chest was just another kind of prepping for the end of the world as a girl knew it. She made herself ready for a new life. All the lessons learned to make the items in the hope chest were the lessons needed to survive the life of a wife and mother. Hand sewing was a skill to be admired as much as a pretty smile. The samplers we see on Antiques Road Show were shown to suitors to convince them or their mother of the daughter's worth. They showed the girl was not illiterate, she could read her bible! They showed her patience and skill. They showed the ability to complete the tasks set before her.
My mother used the hope chest as a method of teaching savings and prepping for the future. She actually bought an oak chest for my elder sister for her sixteenth birthday. As the chest came into the house, the talks changed from saving babysitting money for the extra shoes she wanted for school to what kind of table linen she wanted in her home of the future. I didn't get a chest. My sister moved in to live with her boyfriend and that had repercussions at home. It was the changing times and not everyone was ready!
I saved and bought things I wanted for myself. I stored them in boxes in a shed. Most of it actually made it to my married home. I had my dishes and pots and pans and towels I had bought from a mail order catalog. I had blankets and sheets. It all came in handy. It was all put to immediate use and saved having to buy it all at once. I learned to embroider to decorate my linens. I crocheted afghans for my unborn. I had the things I dreamed of having and I used them all.Wouldn't it be nice to sit down and talk about the hope chest and suggest giving it a try? If the conversations about prepping are spawned then as you build and fill this chest of dreams, will the door be open to prepping for the long term worst case scenarios?
As we prep today, we may not admire the stitching skills of colonial American girls as much as we should. I wonder if we are also overlooking an opportunity to teach our children skills of self reliance and thrift. The hope chest could be a way to open lines of communications with our modern children.
I have seen preppers who include their children in their prepping, and that is a good thing. I have also seen preppers come to the party later with older children and force a new lifestyle on them without realizing they are negatively impacting their young. I heard the excuse that if the stuff hits the fan, the kids are in for a worse shock. Yes and no. I think if you drag them out of their life without warning now, they will not follow you later.