Family of families

Kneeling on my living room floor, I’m watching and listening as my 18-month-old son plays with a baby swing I’ve just finished cleaning. We are testing the batteries to be sure everything works and is ready for a new baby. The music playing is a melody I’ve never heard before but, I realize, it will become an indelible part of new life very soon. The story behind the swing is totally unremarkable, but what the swing represents to me is breathtakingly beautiful.

Last Sunday morning I was up and at the storage units early, by around 7:45am. I generally enjoy my time there. It’s quiet, tucked away just far enough from the big road that you cannot hear the rush of traffic – it becomes more of a mellow, steady, breezy sound. There are also, somewhat inexplicably, a variety of nature sounds – frogs, crickets, birds, cicadas. Despite the fact that I am standing on a bare cement floor in what is essentially a corrugated metal box, I feel pretty zen when I’m there.

I was pulling together items for a mom due December 26th. It’s her first child so she has nothing and really wasn’t sure what to even ask for. These are my favorite types of drops to do. There is a magic about a soon-to-be mom. She has that unique happiness and joy about her that you can only have the first time around. Fear, excitement, anticipation, worry, joy and an abundance of love that just seems to radiate out from her eyes and lips when she talks about her baby. Really, it is beautiful.

This particular mom said she needed a swing and in our units we have a variety to choose from. Some are the fancy kind I always wished I’d had for my kids – the big type that can swing side-to-side or back-to-front; they are more like posh floating nests than swings. But they have a big footprint and require an amount of space that not every mom has. A lot of our moms are living in a single bedroom, sharing a common area with family or roommates. Space-wise they could never handle the fancy type of swing. The other type of swing we have are the smaller ones, they go back-and-forth, play music and sometimes vibrate as well. It’s all the goodness of the posh, floating nest-type swing in a cute, pint-sized version. I saw she lived in an apartment so I decided on the small swing. I chose the very cutest I could find in the units but when I pulled it out into the light of day I saw that it was dirty. The cover needed a wash and the mobile needed a good wipe down. But the batteries were still working, so that was a win.

I brought everything except the swing to the mom later that morning (diapers, wipes, a wipe warmer, blankets, infant toys, bottles, a drying rack, a baby wearer, nursing cover …the list goes on). I told her the swing was too dirty to give to her that day and that I would bring it to her once I’d had a chance to wash it. She offered to take it as-is and wash it herself and I declined, of course.

In my mind, what we are doing is not charity work. It is not giving people tired, old, worn-out items and just expecting them to be grateful for what they can get. It is providing people with a baby shower of sorts, made up of new and gently used items given with love from one family to another. We don’t need to know each other, we just need to be compassionate and caring for one another and through that compassion we come to know each other. Every single mom (and dad) I’ve met through the Village wants nothing less than the very best they can give their child. And while the standards may vary between the families on the receiving end compared to the families donating to us, having an item be clean and ready to welcome a newborn baby into it is the bare minimum.

So now, today, a full week later, I finally got the swing-cover washed and placed back on the frame. It looks as good as new. I turned it on and listened as it started to play melodies that will become the soundtrack of a new mom’s life. She will hear this music played over and over for weeks and maybe months. She will settle her baby down to sleep in this swing so she can eat a bowl of cereal at 5am, when she is exhausted and starving from being up with a fussy baby all night. She will set the baby gently in this swing while she does dishes at 11am, trying to catch up on things left undone from the night before. She will lay down on the couch, listening to this music as both she and the baby are gently lulled into a quiet nap together. The swing and the music it plays are simple and basic but they unite us as a family of families; we’ve all been there, we’ve all been too hungry to sleep and too sleepy to eat, we’ve all broken down and cried when we didn’t know what else we could do to get our baby to stop crying, and through it all we all heard the melodies playing in the background … the soundtrack of new life.

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