Purchased as a gift by my parents from a Dillard’s Department Store in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the crib was shiny and white when we removed it from its cardboard box and assembled it on the floor of our rented house in Santa Fe. Today, 37 years and nearly 2,000 miles from where it was first put together, I took it apart for the last time.
Then I cried.
Like me, that old crib took turns holding three children and six grandchildren, and like me, it’s seen better days. After loosening the first screw, I suddenly stopped. I hate myself sometimes for being sentimental, but I can’t help it, and I couldn’t continue until I’d snapped one last picture.
Plenty of times I cursed that crib. It was too big and a pain to put together every time another grandkid might come for a visit, so we kept it assembled in an upstairs bedroom even though it blocked the way to the attic entrance. We’d sometimes have to push it out of the way on its loudly screeching casters if we needed to remove Christmas ornaments or Halloween decorations from storage. It was a tight squeeze around the crib; I hated it being there.
But today I didn’t hate it.
In the upstairs room, my wife and I looked at one another and knew it was no longer needed. Like the crib, time had passed us by. There would be no more loud screeches, and no more soft whimpers either when another tiny soul was laid down to sleep in the crib’s cozy confines.
Now battered and stained, it held my firstborn, Leah, then Rebekah and Aaron. After a few years of rest, along came the grandchildren: Danny, Evan, Ethan, Lillian, Caleb and Zoe.
The old crib held them all, and safely, too, except for little Zoe that time when something came loose in the middle of the night and pitched her headlong onto the floor. It wasn’t the crib’s fault, not really, it was operator error — the box spring wasn’t locked correctly into the frame.
Thank god Zoe wasn’t seriously hurt, but surely someone was to blame. Whose fault was it? Was it me? Was it you? It’s the kind of thing that happens when you get old, and after some mishap everybody loses just a little bit of faith. What once was sturdy might now be shaky, just a little infirm.
But no matter. Strong hands and strong cribs are no longer required here; no more children in need of our protection.
We untie the hand-sewn, quilted bumper pads, pull the sheet from the mattress, place the screws, springs and other small parts into a plastic bag. I’d gladly give this crib with all my memories to someone else, but nobody’s going to want this piece of junk. It’s scratched, dirty, needs paint and doesn’t measure up to modern safety codes.
It’s all in pieces now, and so am I.
Tuesday is trash day, and the old crib will soon be out of the way. Thirty-seven years gone. At least I won’t have to curse those screeching casters once we kick it to the curb.