In the small Mormon community where I grew up, the significance of motherhood and the advantage of domestic skill persisted for many years after the wider world gave them up as old-fashioned nonsense. Girls in my community had many opportunities to learn homemaking skills from their mothers at home, from leaders of church activities, in community 4-H clubs and in real, honest-to-goodness home-ec courses at school. My heart’s desire was always to be married and to have a home of my own. In spite of the strong, liberating messages of the world beyond mine, I really wanted to be a mother of children, and to nurture and care for them at home.
I appreciate the tradition of the hope chest. When I was young, many of the young women in our community made a display of the contents of their hope chest at their wedding reception. I loved to look through all of the things that were exhibited; beautiful quilts, tablecloths, needlepoint pillows, embroidered dishtowels, crocheted potholders, aprons, dishes. I dreamed my dream of having a home of my own someday, made all the more comfortable and cozy by pretty, handmade things. I learned how to crochet, how to embroider, how to sew and cook. I worked at making different items and put them into a special cardboard hope chest that my ingenious mother fashioned out of an apple box. But by the time I got married in 1979, the custom had faded. Although I was married in a dress I had made myself, I didn’t display my hope chest.
My domestically gifted mother-in-law also worked to assemble a wonderful accumulation of handmade articles as a wedding gift. I was thrilled to receive several sets of beautifully embroidered pillowcases, two full sets of dishtowels, a crocheted afghan, a bed quilt, and a large basketful of pantry items. This gift was so meaningful to me! Other women in our extended families offered handmade gifts as well. Crocheted afghans, quilts, comforters, and kitchen linens have enhanced my home for the past thirty-one years.
This legacy is what I want for my daughter. I so want her to feel the love that goes into such a gift. I want her to continue to feel my love as she unpacks and uses these handmade items sometime in the future. I want her to see the value that I place on domestic work. I hope that she will learn these same worthwhile skills and, by so doing, learn the significance of making a home.