It’s Sunday. When I was small this meant one thing; baby cage. This seems like an indictment of my mother’s parenting practices but it isn’t. Growing up, all of my friends spent part of their Sundays in baby cages too.
I had better explain before the Children’s Aid Society turns up my parents’ doorstep demanding information. My parents were members of the baby boomer generation, which meant that my sister and I were a part of the after boom. In the late eighties, church was still an institution that people attended, thus the boomers and their children came in droves. Consequently the nursery of my parent’s church was overrun with babies. The walls were lined with cribs, the middle of the room was divided by a row of cribs but there were still tiny screaming people spilling out everywhere; lying on carpets, defecating on couches and spitting up into toy baskets.
Something had to be done. Hence someone came up with the bright idea of stacking cribs one on top of the other. This plan sounded much better than the previous suggestion which had been to stack the infants on top of one another in a weekly game of Baby Jenga.
The end effect was kind of like a book shelf with only two sections. But the piece de resistance was of course the doors. They went from the top of the compartment to the bottom and had a heavy duty lock to prevent the infants from falling out if they happened to roll against the door. The bars were spaced so that only a tiny hand would fit through. This meant that when the babies woke up, they would grip the bars and pull themselves into a sitting position then proceed to wail like tiny convicts protesting their imprisonment. The caregivers would have to remove the babies’ tiny digits from the cage bars in order to extract the children because the doors opened outwards on a hinge. However unlike prison guards they did not use batons to do this.
I attempted to find a photo of baby cages on the internet but this was the closest image I could get. Admittedly the only search terms I used were “vertical crib” which the Googles changed to “convertible crib” and when that didn’t turn anything up I tried “stacked cribs”. I refrained from typing “baby cage” into the Googles for fear of what it would come up with.
Eventually, when forty some odd writhing, shrieking balls of human existence no longer filled the church nursery each Sunday, the baby cages fell into disuse. By the babies that is. Toddlers like me who had spent their formative years napping in the cages frequently asked to move to the nursery so they could sit in the baby cages. For whatever reason reliving our incarcerated infancy was an exciting part of being at church. Tragically after a time, attendance in the nursery fell so low that not even the cribs that lined the walls were filled and the utility of the baby cages came into question. The doors and locks were removed and the cages were converted into storage for the Sunday school, although the baby cages will forever live on in story and memory.