(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
So often when we bring home an antique or a vintage find, we’re left to imagine the history it might have. That’s part of the fun after all, speculating where and when an object might have been used, and in whose hands it might have been. But occasionally, if we’re fortunate, we are gifted with an heirloom with a story that is our own.
In 2007 I wrote a Mother’s Day Treasure Hunting column for the Spokesman-Review HOME section about an antique wooden crib hanging in my garage. It was, I wrote, the symbol of motherhood for me.
I’d found the little bed in pieces in my mother-in-law’s basement when I was pregnant with my first child. It had been my husband’s grandmother’s crib when she was born in 1898 and at some time, when households were sold and moved, it had ended up in my mother-in-law’s basement as a family heirloom with no real expectation of ever being used again. But I had to have it and we were fortunate enough to have a family member who was an expert woodworker. He made repairs and reinforced it, adding slats to replace the wire mattress holder, and I can still hear the excitement in his voice when he called to tell me he’d found 1895 written in pencil on one of the pieces. In March of 1985, exactly 100 years after it was signed and dated, we gently placed our newborn daughter in it on the night we brought her home from the hospital.
That crib served us well for many years. My son and two younger daughters spent their first months in it as well, and when there were no more babies it sat in the youngest daughter’s room for years as a place to hold her stuffed animals and baby dolls. And then, finally, it was put away.
A lot of splendid finds have come through my house, some to stay and others to be sold or given away when they were no longer useful or necessary. Or, when the big house was sold, when they no longer fit our downsized lives.
But the little bed was too precious to let slip away, so it was put away until until another generation arrived to claimed it. Which is exactly what has happened.
My husband climbed the ladder in the garage and lifted it off the hooks on which it had been resting. He brought it into the house and we cleaned and polished the wood and slipped the sheets over the mattress. And last night when my daughter brought our month-old granddaughter over for a visit, as we watched her sleeping in the place her mother had been only a heartbeat ago, it was as if the years were a length of ribbon, tying one generation to another.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Home Planet , Treasure Hunting and CAMera: Travel and Photo blogs, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org