Years ago (let’s say 1951) we had a neighbor who was a Mayflower descendant, and one day she showed me the cradle that stood in her kitchen. It had been in her family since – I forget -- the 1600s or 1700s. Heavy slabs of solid wood, with a hood to shield the baby from drafts. What fascinated me was the underside, which had the names and dates of babies that had slept in it. I don’t remember if they were carved in the wood, written and tacked on, whatever.
We were expecting our second child (babies were booming all over then) and to forestall “the baby pushed me out of my crib” we decided to promote our toddler to his own big boy bed ahead of time. His new room needed shelves for toys, so off we went to the Salvation Army to buy a used bookcase. Found a nice one for $2.50 (minimum wage in 1951 was 75 cents.) And standing next to it was an antique cradle. Nowhere as old as our neighbors’ – curved and spindly. (I later saw it in a reprint of the 1905 Sears Roebuck catalog, where it was offered for $3.)
I remember telling myself “Forget it, you have to inherit a tradition. You can’t start a tradition. It’s 1951 and everything has already happened.” But we bought it anyhow. Put a baby-carriage mattress in it (whatever happened to baby carriages?) and lent it to a friend before our baby was born. Lent it out a lot.
After nine babies had rocked in it, I found a piece of cardboard, wrote all nine names and dates and tied it to the bottom of the cradle with an old shoelace.