Last Piece of Chicken

by Pamela Landry

Mom didn’t like clutter, but there were a few things she couldn’t throw away.

On cold winter nights, she pulled the dreaded wool blanket out of her cedar chest and landed it on the bed I shared with my sister. That blanket was one of her treasures. It would certainly keep you warm, but it was itchy and felt like a zillion fire ants invading the bed. She used it to keep her little girls warm in the coldest of nights. I hated it. Paula tolerated it.

The cedar chest held other treasures too. In there was the most beautiful silk gown I had ever seen. It was off white with a soft beige lace at the shoulders and along the low neckline. I saw it one time when she opened the cedar chest to get the wool blanket. The gown was delicate and begged to be worn. She had it wrapped in tissue paper and all I could see of it when she picked it up and laid it on her bed was that exquisite lace. My little girl eyes nearly popped out of my head. I sat on the bed next to it and carefully pulled the tissue paper back. When I asked Mom why she didn’t wear it, she said it was too nice to wear. My hands caressed it like it was pure gold, like it must be made of fairy dust.

There were other things in the cedar chest; things Paula and I weren’t allowed to touch. Before the lid closed, I hurried to see how much I could look at all at once. If there was a beautiful gown in there, maybe there were other wonderful things. She had many obligations and hurried to put the gown wrapped in tissue paper back where it had been, nearly closing my head in there.

But, I saw several lace handkerchiefs and a beautifully tailored women’s suit. Aunt Letha sent Mom, Paula and I pretty handkerchiefs for our birthdays and not one of hers had been used. They had been carefully laundered and pressed, but she said she was saving them. Mom always had a clean handkerchief. It was the same few handkerchiefs, faded from use, laundered, pressed and kept in her top drawer until one was stuffed in what she called “the First National,” a place in her bra between her breasts.

Why had she put those things aside that she loved and treasured?

I now own her cedar chest, but not her beautiful gown. The chest came to me empty, without all those things she carefully saved. Where had they gone?

My kitchen cabinets are full of dishes and my china cabinet is full of china. My children see it and frown when the table is set with that beautiful china. They see no need to hand wash dishes when we have big family dinners. It’s easier to use paper plates and save the china. I’m going to use the china every chance I get. And, I hope someone eats the last piece of chicken off that fine china platter.

God gave us a chest of extravagant gifts, the best of which is salvation.  Open the lid and see for yourself. Reach inside and embrace those gifts as your own. No need to save them.