A Cradle

A Cradle


It’s just a cradle, crafted of dark wood, wobbling slightly as it rocks. The morning light filters in through the linen curtains and shines through the spindles onto the wood floors — shining on the simple cradle like an ethereal light.

But it isn’t just a cradle. It’s an heirloom, memories. It’s a promise, the future.

My brothers and I were all rocked to sleep in this very cradle. Then it help my nieces and nephews when they were tiny bundles. Now it holds my precious Fiona.

I place her in the cradle at night, pulling it close to my bedside where I can see her and reach her. I watch her through those wooden spindles. I watch her face and all the many expressions. I listen to her grunts and coos and cries. I reach over and gently rock the cradle. I place a hand on my babe, I replace her pacifier.

In the middle of the night, I pull her from the cradle and nurse her before placing her back in the safety of the cradle.

I wonder how many more children will sleep here. More of my own children perhaps, my youngest brother’s as well? What about further into the future? Will Fiona’s first child sleep in it? Will she rock her own daughter to sleep in this same wooden cradle?

It’s the beauty of heirlooms — this cradle isn’t just a cradle, it is memories, it is promises.

Imperfect heirlooms

Imperfect heirlooms

Quilt heirloom

I love heirlooms–the history that they hold, the belonging that they create. We have a myriad of heirlooms in our house, many of them from my great-grandmother and namesake, Holly Matney.

I have beautiful things like her china and her knickknack shelf. Useful things like her end table. Fun things like her little Christmas elf. And sentimental things like her 16-year-old portrait–restored and enlarged, hanging in our dining room.

Some of these items are in perfect condition, like the china. Others are worn, having been well-used over the years, like the end table.

I love both. Both the pristine and the worn.

I could have her table refinished–stripped of its stains and its imperfections sanded out. But the thing is, I love those imperfections. I love the stains. Because someone I love put them there. This little table has lived in the house of someone I love for generations and generations. And I don’t know the story behind every nick and mark, but I know they are a part of the history, a part of the heirloom.

We also have a number of things that remind Husband of his dad, little things here and there tucked around the house so that those we have loved and lost are still with us. Heirlooms are like that, they remind us of our history. Better yet, they bring that history into our current. Into our homes. Into our lives. And they will continue to live on beyond our lives.

On my 13th birthday, my mother gave me a garnet ring that she had been given on her 13th birthday by her namesake. Someday, I hope to have a daughter so that I may give it to her on her 13th birthday. To continue the tradition, to pass down mementos of meaning.

But all heirlooms have to start somewhere. And I think we can start them now too. I believe that Husband and I can begin traditions and bring keepsakes into our lives that will endure for our children and our children’s children.

We received one such heirloom recently–a lovely wedding ring quilt made by Husband’s mother as a wedding gift. It is incredible, each little piece stitched with love, intended just for us, a celebration and commemoration of not just our wedding, but our marriage. It is all the blue and brown hues that we love, a myriad of colors working together to create an artful centerpiece.

Our quilt.

This is our heirloom.

Right now it is bright and fresh and new. It folds perfectly and crisply. It is beautiful. And I love that.

But someday it will be worn. It will be soft and even wrinkled. There may be some worn patches, a few tears or a stain. But that will be beautiful too. Because all of those “imperfections” are just marks of love. I want this quilt to be loved. I want it to keep my family warm on cold nights. I want it to be wrapped around us for comfort in times of need.

I want my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to love it too–to ask about it, to learn about it, to cherish it.

Because that is the mark of an heirloom–how well it is cherished.

Our newest heirloom.