Old Fashioned...

Updated: Aug 30, 2019


Sofía García Menéndez...If you say it fast and try to roll your tongue on the 'Gar', it sounds pretty, doesn't it? This is the name I would always use whenever I was playing pretend with my kids or with a friend whenever if we wanted to say we were "someone else". For the longest, and I mean LONGEST time I had no idea why I would say that name or choose it. I just thought it flowed and sounded pretty as well as authentic. And then I found the reason...

When I was middle school aged, I went to a birthday party that ended up being a very impressionable birthday party. It was an age where you always wondered if you fit in or not. I was a huge tomboy, very athletic, and grew up with only boys in the neighborhood. It didn't bother me to be around boys because all they wanted to do was play sports so I fit in just fine, or I proved myself so I would fit in. However, when it came to girls, I always felt awkward. One minute they were playing soccer with me and the next minute they were off braiding hair. I didn't braid hair...or curl it...I was lucky to comb it. So, to be invited to this party was kind of a big deal for me because it was all girls and they weren't really the "athletic" kind. Matter of fact, I can't even remember why I was invited except I was probably nice to her as I tried to be nice to everyone. Back then (and even today) I hated to see people stand or sit alone or look like they had/have no friends. She was one of those girls and looking back, the birthday party was probably to help her grow some friendships.

I remember pulling up to her enormous white house; her parents were pretty well off which also intimidated me. Girls were arriving in dresses and of course, I wasn't in a dress, but I did have a birthday gift! I remember we hung out in her basement because it was a sleepover, but what was impressionable wasn't all the girls and having fun, but was her family and all the little "things" I learned from them. I remember meeting her mom and she was much older than most moms I knew. She was shy and soft spoken and "old fashioned". Her dad was a jolly man. He wasn't loud, but he was happy and smiley and Irish. They showered their daughter with adoring eyes, but from a distance. I know, because I remember watching them. The birthday girl was in a flowing white dress and her red hair just popped, yet she didn't look like one of us. She, too, look "old fashion". What I thought was 'old fashion' was really more like Southern Belle, I just didn't know what a southern belle was back then. This was just a very prim and proper family.

My biggest memory, outside of having bakery donuts for breakfast at a birthday party for the first time ever, was the gift her parents gave her. She received silverware...and embroidered pillowcases mailed to her from her grandmother...

And all the girls froze...

It was then that her mom said to her softly, "...I can put those gifts in your hope chest if you like...." and all I heard was HOPE CHEST. What was a hope chest? I sat and watched her open all her gifts and worried if my gift would make it to the hope chest. I didn't wrap silverware and I didn't know I was suppose to give her pillowcases! So yes, I was pretty scared. I soon realized that all the other girls gave normal gifts like me so the worry left quickly. But I needed to know what a hope chest was.

A little later I remember going upstairs to use the bathroom and her mom was sitting at the dining room table. Again, I felt this was odd because we never sat at our dining room table unless company was over. It was the kitchen table or the couch at our house. Like I said earlier, she was a very shy lady and all but whispered to me asking if I was having a good time. I told her I was. I remember no one was around so I said to her, "Can you tell me what a hope chest is?" Her face beamed as she got the biggest smile on her face. She told me to sit down, so I did, then she proceeded to tell me what a hope chest was. She told me she had one when she was growing up and that all her daughters, including the birthday girl, each had one as well. She said that friends and family would buy small gifts as the young girl was growing up and they were to be put into the hope chest for her future wedding. She made it sound so beautiful and fancy and "old fashioned" and by the time I left the party the next morning, all I knew was that I liked old fashioned people and I wanted a hope chest of my own. It was the first time I wanted something girly and I wanted to be old fashioned.

Fast forward about 4 or 5 years and my dad, knowing I had been begging for one, surprised me with one for Christmas. It was gorgeous! Cherry wood with a blue and pink printed padded top. And when I opened it...cedar. The smell of cedar was so new and perfect. To say I was elated was an understatement. I couldn't wait to fill it, and fill it I did...but not with silverware or pillowcases. My hope chest became home to all my personal items that meant the world to me as a teenager. I stashed pictures, year books, a t-shirt or two, prom memoriabilia, love letters...It was my personal diary in a beautiful wooden box. As time went by, I had to remove the love letters from Bill because there were so many! Yes, he was very very romantic! :) But I kept the corsages in their original boxes from the dances we went to as well as the prom cumber bun that my aunt made him to match the prom dress she made for me.

For the most part, the hope chest hasn't been touched. The items in there are still the same as they were before I got married with the exception of a few added pieces. The picture below is one I just took to show you. The pink dress with black lace was my prom dress my senior year. The flag actually belongs to Bill; he received it as a gift. There's also the pillow our ring bearer used at our wedding that I cross stitched. But what you don't see is a little letter I found a while ago that I kept from a pen pal I totally forgot I had when I was a freshmen or sophomore in high school. She was from Spain, and her name was Sofía García Menédez....

#penpals #growingup #hopechest

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