Every family has its traditions. Whether it’s a treasured gumbo recipe, a turkey with all the trimmings at Thanksgiving, or vacations on the Gulf Coast, those family favorites withstand the test of time.
Our family is no different. Perhaps one of our tried-and-true traditions dates back to 1942, the year my brother was born. My grandmother gifted my parents with a white wicker bassinet, a practical and now treasured heirloom.
The bassinet turns 80 this year and is now in its third generation. Two dozen babies have spent their newborn days in the oval basket that once cradled my brother during World War II. All those family members are still living today.
In addition to my brother, the first generation to use the bassinet also included my two sisters, and of course, me. Once my youngest sister was born in 1956, the infant crib was mothballed in the attic of our Metairie home. It resurfaced again in 1969 and stayed active until 1978 with my two nephews and two nieces taking their turns in the baby basket on New Orleans turf.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of our cherished baby crib is its mobility. It first left New Orleans in 1980, rolling west across Interstate 10 to Beaumont, Texas, where it then soothed my infant daughter. Two years later, it made its way on I-10 back to New Orleans, where my niece was the next in line. After her turn in the bassinet, it once again found its way back to Beaumont after the birth of my second daughter. Returning once again to its roots, the bassinet proved its practical nature to cradle two more nephews in 1987 and 1989.
Fast forward to the 21st century when our family would welcome nine boys and three girls, all of whom (with the exception of one baby) would take their turns as newborns in the popular cradle. But it wasn’t done traveling, only this time the bassinet was headed east on I-10 and north on I-75 to Atlanta for the opportunity to caress yet another newborn.
Back in New Orleans, there were others who fell in line, now the third generation to call it home for the first weeks of life.
As I was approaching motherhood, the skirt used by those who had come before my firstborn had become old and faded. I invested in several yards of white eyelet from a nearby fabric shop, set up my portable sewing machine and got to work. What I created from that fabric would eventually become a smocked First Communion dress, a garment that is still highly valued by our family today.
When it came time to prepare the bassinet for my oldest grandchild, it would need another skirt. I measured and took stock of what I needed and made yet another skirt out of white eyelet. Once we learned that our first grandchild was a girl, I was off and running, stitching and stretching to fit it to the oval basket. This time the bassinet would make another visit west — to Austin, Texas, where my daughter, her husband and their three children live. There, two bundles of joy would spend their newborn days in the infant cradle.
The traveling bassinet hit a snag — technology — in 2019. The Austin family opted for the “SNOO,” with electronically controlled gently gliding and rocking features that would soothe a fussy baby back to sleep. Although it was a departure from the bassinet of prior years, we respectfully accepted that sleep was important to the family of five.
However, the bassinet wasn’t done with traveling yet. From Austin, the crib made its way back to Baton Rouge where it welcomed our two grandsons. And then again back to Metairie where it cradled my sister’s two grandsons in 2018 and 2020.
The bassinet sits idle now in my sister’s attic in Metairie awaiting yet the possibility of another baby in the years to come. And inscribed on the bottom of the bassinet are the names and birth dates of those bundles of joy who have spent their newborn days within its comforting cocoon.
— Trick lives in Baton Rouge.
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