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    BWS Stories - "If I Could Save Time In A Bottle"...Embracing Our Authentic Selves

    "If I Could Save Time In A Bottle"...Embracing Our Authentic Selves - NEVER GIVE UP HOPE

    Linda O'Connell has been published on line at Boomer Women Speak, in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, anthologies, magazines and newspapers. The ocean tugs at her soul, her grandchildren tickle her fancy and she continues to shape the future through her students. She has instilled a love of learning and reading/writing in preschoolers for thirty years. Contact her at


    Recently I found a treasure chest from a different era, time and place when social more`s were in flux, changing faster than the beat of Sonny and Cher's latest song. Young people carried signs, marched for civil rights and protested war. Life was full of uncertainties, but I was sure of one thing, I would move out of my parent's house when I turned eighteen and control my own life.

       In the mid sixties, high school guidance counselors and door to door salesmen assumed that female graduates who were not going on to college, were going on to become someone's wife.

    Many upper and middle class girls customarily owned a hope chest filled with heirloom quilts and fine silver. Impoverished girls like myself, would have been satisfied with a pine crate and a set of matching glasses. I piled household goods on two shelves of our pantry and hoped for the day I'd have my own pantry and enough food to stock all of the shelves.

       During the month of May, salesman visited graduating females. They came into my home and displayed fine silverware on our worn tablecloth. The pots and pans they were hawking shone brighter than the overhead bare light bulb. When the cutlery salesman demonstrated how his knives sliced a ripe tomato and mentioned a monthly payment plan, I decided two things. I could not afford the knives, and if he left the juicy fruit, I'd surely eat it. I said NO to the salesman and YES to the young man who had courted me through high school.

       On weekends I walked a mile to Cherokee Street, a five block inner-city shopping district where independent shopkeepers displayed their wares in storefront windows. I purchased inexpensive household items in dime stores that smelled of fresh popcorn and greasy sloppy Joe's. 

       I couldn't believe my eyes when my mom handed me a postcard two weeks before graduation. It stated that I had won a cedar chest from a fine furniture store. My fiance` borrowed his dad's station wagon and we headed to the store. In route, we stopped at the dime store to purchase the first item for my hope chest, a downy pair of baby booties for the baby we'd someday have. I chattered away about where we would place our hope chest; perhaps we'd use it as our coffee table. My imagination ran wild as I envisioned the intricate carvings. We entered the store and I handed the furniture salesman my postcard and announced, "We're driving a station wagon."

       "That's nice." He smiled and walked to the rear of the store. He returned and handed me a shoe-box sized replica of a Lane cedar chest. "Here's your free congratulatory gift. A senior, are you? Can I interest you in a full-sized chest? We have an easy payment plan."

    Bitter tears stung my eyes. I shook my head and walked out clutching my little cedar box. I placed the booties inside and tears stained the top as we drove home. Shortly after graduation, like many other girls from dysfunctional families, I went off to start my own. I tucked the cedar box on a closet shelf of every house we moved into.

       Recently I found it again. Many transformations have taken place in the past forty years. The neighborhood and I have both changed. As I raise the hinged lid and look inside, I see the girl who married too young, loved her kids so much, survived divorce, and suffered unbearable anguish when her best friend died of lung cancer at aged fifty-two. Beyond the vision of the baby girl and boy who wore the booties, I see numerals etched inside the lid - simple addition and subtraction written in ink in my best friend's handwriting. This little cedar box, which still contains the fragrance of the donor tree, reminds me of the many yard sales we used to have; it served as our cash box. 

       My miniature cedar chest represents a young girl's hopes and dreams, a mother's fond memories and a grown woman's friendship cut short. It is chock full of reminders of the many blessings I have, the abundance of necessities that fill my pantry and luxuries that fill my life, not the least of which is good health, love and family. It is a constant reminder to never give up Hope.

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