Cradle in the Corner

Cradle in the Corner

Last Fall, a brief skirmish with some mice brought me to the far corner of my garage, where the breaker box is, right next to the driveway. That corner is the most chaotic because it’s the most convenient, and most of the stuff in that corner is damning evidence of my crimes of frugality in defiance of common sense. There are pieces of random metal for projects that never happened, some chunks of wood that have to be good for something, broken-down cardboard boxes for the next time we move, and even some pieces of a desk that were too big to throw away without cutting them up. Some of the stuff even has a use—like the tomato cages and the snow shovels. Then, in the space under the breaker box, the pieces of a bassinet lurk like a ghost, neither totally present nor absent. My mother-in-law passed on that baby bed to us when she was downsizing her possessions. It was quite nice when it was new, but it has seen bad effects in storage—most likely in a damp basement. The bedspring has a lot of rust, the wooden frame has some surface mildew, and the mattress had to go right away.

Honestly, I’m not really sure why the whole thing just didn’t get thrown out, but it didn’t. My mother-in-law, Depression-era farmgirl that she is, didn’t even seem to seriously consider that it really should go. And so, my wife received it from her with a sort of holy solemnity. It’s obvious that the rusty musty cradle matters a great deal to both my wife and my mother-in-law. My hunch is that it has something to do with dreams and family—precious things both lost and realized.

Not Yet Time

So, one morning last Fall, in a reckless fit of thoughtless practicality, I mentioned that cradle to my wife over the phone as she was driving to work. In my defense, though, she literally called me as I was leaning the pieces of the bassinet against my car out in the driveway, so I might have exercised more wisdom if I had longer to consider my path. Rarely have such short conversations seemed to take so long. We agreed that we were never going to use it. We agreed that no one else is ever going to use it. And that’s as far as we got. It wasn’t time to settle the matter yet, and for once I had the sense to let the matter settle.

So, after I swept out the mouse nest and started to put stuff back, it occurred to me that my life is like the stuff in the corner. I’m in the process of starting down a new career path, and everything has gotten pulled out for re-evaluation—all the way from the clothes and books that I will discard or keep, up to the way that I will spend my attention and inner focus.

It turns out that a lot of what came before in my life is just stuff—it came and went and that’s that, however important it seemed at the time, books and files from school ended up being transitory, like the scenery on the riverbank as things keep flowing. Many days, I find myself asking whether I honestly anticipate getting back to that particular spot along the river, and then realize that what I thought would be a homestead turned out to be a way-station.

Some of Life Stays with Us

Then, some of what came before in my life has stayed with me, even though it didn’t seem so important back then. I’m writing now because I’ve worked as a writer before. Writing was simply the medium to present content, back when I would have preferred to teach in person. That part of my life was an acquaintance that I viewed as a temporary traveling companion—like so many other parts of my life—but it has stayed on long after I’ve left other things behind.

But then again, some of what has come before in my life sits in the corner like that old bassinet. That cradle still seems to be holding the memory of dreams that tarry because their business is not finished. I’m no authority on these things, but some hopes and dreams seem to refuse to let go—sort of like a magnet drawn towards meaning—even though those dreams will not be lived into the world in the ways that they were first dreamed. It’s like the heart of the dream remains and refuses to leave, and stays around like the cradle in the corner of my garage. And like with that cradle in the corner last Fall, it’s not time to settle the matter yet, so we have to let the matter settle.

Waiting as Holy Time

Sometimes such waiting is a graced, holy time—a dormant time—like winter. Unrealized dreams can be like trees that come back to life in spring or fallow fields that wait and finally offer an unanticipated harvest. But I suspect that such pleasant resolution of things is more likely to come in hindsight, and it would be a little dishonest of me to pretend that the whole process is simple or painless. Dreams can haunt us, clamor and go bump in the night, and keep us awake when we would rather be sleeping peacefully. And alternatively, dreams can linger in their remains—waiting to be reanimated like Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones—and the only time they come to mind is when you step over them.

And so, the pieces of the bassinet spent the Winter between the lathe and the weight set. I had to go by it every day and over it a few times. It looks like the lathe and the bassinet will stay, but the weight set will be moving on this year. I’m afraid it’s been a long, long time since I’ve used it, and now I need the space. I guess it’s time for us to part ways. Funny though, I never saw myself getting rid of that pile of metal, and certainly not before I got rid of that old cradle.


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