My 3-year old gives a deep smile as he wriggles around on the sheets and hugs his blanket and stuffed animals (Tigery, Dolphiny, Popcorn, and Daniel Tiger.) This is a monumental moment. A catastrophic shift in our parenting paradigm. For the first time in 8 years, all three kids are in big beds and out of the crib.
It is an exciting moment but my eyes are drawn to the battered, white, and cheap crib that has been in our family for almost a decade. Like many first time parents, we stressed and debated over every baby device and piece of furniture —
- Should we get the thousand dollar robot arm that rocks your infant in a scientifically perfected motion?
- Does our baby need knee pads? I don’t want our baby to have bruised knees?
- Do we need this crying analyzer? How else are we to analyze our baby’s cries??
When it comes to crib choice, the options are vast (oak, maple, drawers, walk-in closet.) But we opted for a cheap one from Amazon I assembled myself.
To our shock this white crib has been a tank. And now, for the first time, its services are no longer needed.
As I look at the bite marks from teething kids and I remember hours of bending over and patting them back to sleep, I am filled with nostalgia. This crib has endured vomiting, kicking, jumping, and a cross country move.
I’m having a hard time putting it away. For weeks now, it has remained in the room, fully assembled, with no kid to sleep in it. This crib has been with the family for some of the most sacred times of life.
But, of course, the emotions are not about the crib. The crib is only a representation.
Using a Thing to Represent THE Thing
I don’t understand NFTs. Smart people have tried to explain it to me. I’ve read many articles, but I’m still only about 15% sure of what they are.
NFTs are fascinating. You can buy ownership of something in the digital space. Even though others can download it or view it, you are the owner of it. In my simple understanding, what makes NFTs valuable is they are unique and can’t be replaced by something else.
But what’s interesting is the thing you purchase, is not THE thing — it’s a representation of the thing. I could buy a digital ownership of a Chicago Bulls ring from the 1993 championship. That’s pretty cool. I think memorabilia is fun — it’s a reminder and representation of something amazing that took place.
You know what’s cooler? Being a fourth grade kid in Oklahoma and falling in love with the Bulls because your family doesn’t have cable and WGN (the Chicago station) is the only station that carries basketball games. Then, after watching John Paxson drain a three, you run around the house yelling, “three-peat!”
That is a moment I will never forget. That moment is unique and can’t be replace by something else. It’s THE thing.
NFTs are a new form with new possibilities but they are not unlike what humans have always done. Because of the power and beauty of certain moments, we use material things to remember them or represent them.
After 8th grade, our family would be moving from Hugo, Oklahoma to a new town. The last day of middle school I sat with a group of old friends on the concrete steps of the old school building, waiting for my parents to pick me up. This would be the last time I saw most of them.
As we reminisced, several of us began to cry. This was unique because Hugo was known for being a “hard” town. Being tough was highly valued. Two of the guys crying were my friends Quentin and Jierel.
Quintin was one of my longest tenured friends. We forged our bond in 2nd grade when I was one of the only white kids who played basketball. Over the years, he often vouched for me as I got mocked when walking on the court. He would say, “naw, this white boy can actually play.” (I want that quote on my tombstone by the way.) “Here lies a white boy who can actually play.”
One recess in 5th grade, a boy wanted to fight me because his girlfriend started liking me instead of him. The guy got in my face and started threatening me when Quintin walked up, surrounded by a group of guys from the basketball court and said, “I heard you wanted to fight our boy?” He backed down instantly.
Jierel and I called each other, “braces brothers.” It wasn’t exactly witty, but it was catchy. We competed against each other to become quarterback. We sat in the back of classes and giggled. I learned to never tell him if I liked a girl. One day while talking on the phone, I confessed that I liked a certain girl. But I got nervous talking to girls — my armpits would sweat and my face turned red. The next day, when we saw that girl he said, “hey, Adam likes you.” Everybody laughed. I died.
Quintin passed away a year after graduating high school. Jierel died last year, in his late 30’s. When both of them passed away, I found out second hand, because I hadn’t talked to them in years. Even though it’s been a long time, I still think of them and cry just like we cried on those concrete steps. I think of the marking and foundational moments we shared together. And now they are gone.
That’s the painful piece of being human, right? These moments leave, as soon as they come.
What Makes You Wealthy
Toward the end of the show, “The Office,” Andy Bernard poignantly says, “”I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.”
The good times are always happening. The problem is we miss them. We distract ourselves with the need to climb the ladder, to accumulate status, successes, and wealth — not realizing what actually matters are the moments right in front of us.
It’s not about the crib, it’s the incomprehensible gift of being able to father these three human miracles of life. It was hard in the moment, but I cherish the late night rocking and patting, the pacifiers, and even the crying.
It’s the moments that give life meaning.
What do we call people who have big houses and fancy cars and vacation homes? Rich, right?
Is that what makes one rich? The things they have?
You can’t use things to represent THE thing.
I want the moments. I want to hold onto the beauty right in front of me. The place where true wealth comes from.
May we accumulate and store up moments, not things.
May we become more aware of the life happening right in front of us.