Cradle: (n) a small bed for an infant, usually on rockers.
There is still a debate over whether my fourth son arrived early, or my wife didn’t know how to count months. I will not intrigue you further with that particular impasse, but he—that fourth guy of mine—was born on the road.
Now, it wasn’t like we were gypsies traveling by oxcart, but we did not have a permanent home and we were touring as a family, doing music and imitating our version of creative diversion.
He came early. Or we were late. But suffice it to say, he ended up being birthed in a strange town with strange doctors in a strange hospital in a strange way.
After he was born and the shock of his arrival assimilated through our midst, we needed to find a way for him to travel with us and stay healthy, without later growing up and being so traumatized that he would require an expensive therapist.
At the time we were staying in larger motel rooms that would accommodate our family for a week at a time. Most of these establishments did not offer portable cribs. We considered purchasing one, but decided it was too difficult to tear down and put back together. I don’t know what stimulated that decision—perhaps it was the fact that my other two sons were teenagers and I was only adept at putting together sentences.
So we decided to consecrate—set aside in a holy way—one of the drawers from the bureau offered in the motel room, wherein there would be no socks, underwear or first-aid kit, but instead, it would be the sleeping domain for the new little one.
We had to agree among each other never to refer—at least in public—to this bed as “the drawer in our motel.” (We anticipated some horror or displeasure from the people who might hear such an explanation.) So going old-fashioned and feeling safe with the term, we referred to that drawer as his “cradle.”
Most people, when they heard the word “cradle,” envisioned something from Charles Dickens, or maybe the Civil War era. Certainly something “rockable”—but warm, cozy, where the little young’un could snug away to sleeper land.
Amazingly enough, no one ever asked us to describe the cradle or where we placed the cradle in our trailer when we traveled from town to town. It was our secret, and the little one never knew he wasn’t in an expensive bassinet or overwrought crib.
The only important thing was for each family member to remember without question, and to never make the mistake of accidentally shutting the drawer.