In our little village we have this lovely service called Spring Cleanup. This is where everything you have accumulated, for good or ill, can go out to the curb and be picked up on a certain day, free of charge (well I suppose taxes are paid but you know what I mean). We also have Spring and Fall leaf pickup and brush pickup, but I don’t tend to get overly attached to leaves or brush.
My husband lives to throw things away. No use for it this very second? Ok, out it goes. He says I am micromanaging him, but what I am really doing is guarding our possessions against the relentless beast that is his loathing of clutter.
So we discussed what would go out this year, came to terms after much negotiation. And Casey started to haul it out. He is one of those people who, even after a very long day, can keep going, who thrives on movement and tasks and chores. I am not one of those people so I retired to my chair with my brother’s book. I watched and tried to distance and steel myself as he made a few trips up and down the basement stairs that rattle and bang against the wall that was erected in 1900.
I repeated over and over, its just stuff, its only things.
But then came a wooden cradle.
It is low to the ground, only good for an infant who is less than, perhaps, three months old. It is dark wood that is finished and polished and has bright hand painted flowers and rabbits on it. It broke a few years ago when Kaia decided to sit in it and we just haven’t fixed it. And the baby factory is closed over here.
But I immediately was transported back to our kitchen in Traverse City, A galley style kitchen with a lot of cabinets and red tile floors and white trim. I could see Ave laying in that cradle at the end of the kitchen and little Kaia sitting next to her on the floor, not old enough yet to let a cold tile floor bother the state of her bum. She slowly and deliberately rocked the cradle, and I made dinner and cleaned up the kitchen, sang a song, stars shining bright above you, night breezes seem to whisper, I love you. Birds singing in the sycamore tree, dream a little dream of me. I don’t know where Casey was in the memory, perhaps not home from work yet, though dusk had already claimed the woods that made up most of our yard.
I was a big fan of these sack sort of things that I would put Ave in and tuck her feet into the elastic open bottom. She always did better if she felt like she being held close, she is still that way. So she is in her white sleep dress with yellow duckies on it and there is my great big girl with all of her too early puberty things happening and her list of boys who like her growing daily, there is that little blue eyed girl with her notes in her folder addressed to a boy and scolding him for pressuring her to “date” in the fifth grade, because doesn’t he know that relationships formed in school rarely last? (snort)
And so I am back to those last years in Traverse City where everything was so hard and so wearing, all of the time. And I am simultaneously happy to be home with the lake minutes from my front door and people I know everywhere I go and girls who are long grown out of small wooden cradles lovingly hand painted by someone for some other child long ago.
It sits on the curb, not alone, but still apart, the last vestige of a part of my life that is done and gone, but still there somehow. I shouldn’t care, I shouldn’t be so attached to things that are just things. But I can’t help but see how the setting sun lights up the yellow flowers and warms the bed of the cradle one more time. I hope someone takes it and uses it, I’ll be watching and hoping.
For now though, the present calls. There are showers to be had and dinners to be cleared away, dishes to be washed. There are people I love more than myself who long for the joy of a wooden cradle that needs to be rocked as a dinner is prepared and a cranky baby finally drifts off to sleep.
I wanted to name Avery Jude, but I was vetoed. I love Hey Jude, that Beatles song, but I also love that Jude is the patron saint of lost causes and people who are hopeless, those folks without hope. I still think that even with her name, which means nothing other than “a surname”, she carries love and light into the world. On Sunday one of our ushers at church came and found me to tell me that Ave had made his day, that when he handed her the wine to carry forward to a trembling priest at our altar she looked at him so solemnly with her big blue eyes. He said it teared him up a bit, seeing that small face bearing a vessel of wine (which would soon transform into the blood of a savior who died for her, and for him too).
I will let the cradle go. I will let the other things go and know that they are only things, that they can be replaced or not, as need and whim demand. But I wanted to tell you this story, this very small part of a larger narrative that started with how the sun shone on a wooden cradle, and all of the memories it carries with it.
As I travel deeper into the mystery that is my vocation I realize that I am living two lives, there is me in a vocational sense, and the me who answers the phone and pays claims and hugs her children and her husband. I feel splintered, and I wonder if anyone who has a call to a vocation feels this way. Does the nun or the Catholic priest ever long for a warm bed and a partner sleeping peacefully next to them, for the children they could have had, for that completely different life?
It is that way for me, I long for my vocation and yet long for my family when they are absent from me. The world is that way I guess, and so I am learning that being a splintered person only helps me to make beautiful colors when I get those rare stained glass glory light moments.
Maybe tonight will be one of them. Maybe someone will see how the sun glints off the bright colors on the cradle and take it home. Maybe they will repair the brokenness of the cradle, present it to someone, and once more a fretful baby will occupy its space.
Sometimes things are important, even if we wish that we weren’t, even as we strive to not be slaves to consumerism and possessions. Some things matter, and this thing matters to me.
I love you still.
( even if you make it really hard sometimes).