When Pharaoh's daughter went down to the water; Faith, there was young Moses a-swimmin' around, With his pap all so handy and a stick o'sweet candy To keep him from cryin' until he was found.m
Memory takes me no further with that nursery song. Grandmother sang everything on one note, and she'd sing about Moses in many stanzas. Which is interesting, because the original tale of Moses in the bulrushes is a swift one, told with great skill and sparing of words, and all at once "Moses was grown." In England, a bassinet is called a Moses basket, and here in Maine and the Maritimes we have the "Moses cradle," a baby's bed on rockers with a hood halfway. I have just finished one to oblige a neighbor who will arrive shortly: Donna across the way is "expecting."
Our own family's Moses cradle has accommodated seven generations, and Granddaughter Julia has it in her room full of dolls, probably to be ready for an eighth. It is not available to Donna, so I took down some pine boards and began a new cycle. I'm sure that Moses cradle was designed for hearthside days, with baby down inside safe from the drafts. Comfort could be bestowed by rocking the thing, without bringing the infant into the rigors of the world. I had the cradle about finished when Ray Thompson popped into my shop, on his way to the boatyard. "Con
Then he said, "When I was a boy, neighbors to us had one of them things with the rockers put on fore and aft. The thing bucked like a hobby horse. Kid they rocked in it never cried like babies do -- always whinnied."
One of the things my Granddaddy exposed to me was the entertainment value of the Bible. Grandfather "took" the National Tribunem and the New England Homesteadm , and out on the farm in his time other reading matter was scarce. Besides the rule and guide of his simple faith, the Bible was his library. When I was alone with him, He'd ask me to read, and with his feet up he would half doze as I struggled with the Old Testament chapters. It was not otherwise in my training that the Bible was funny, so I was a mite alarmed when we came, early, to the original Moses cradle and Grandfather chuckled and was amused far beyond what I thought was disrespect for scripture. But truly, the story of the Moses cradle is a funny story, duping the Egyptian dynasties in a manner to bring envy to even that master of knaveries, Till Eulenspiegel. and in an ancient down East farmhouse where the Moses cradle was ready "up attic" for periodic service, we could and did picture young Moses "a-swimmin' around."
Men children were, Pharaoh said, to be destroyed, and here was Moses, "a goodly child," hidden away for three months to save him from the royal edict. His mother never figures as more than "a daughter of Levi," but she was crafty and cunning. and she contrived a fat hoodwinking that came off superbly. The cradle was an "ark," the Book says, and it was made of bulrushes and daubed with slime and pitch. Moses, at three months, was presumably of average size, and here in Maine he would probably have been taken from the cradle for safety sake and given a crib. When a child begins to move about, he can shift the center of gravity of a rocking cradle and go scooting across the planks. Besides, here in Maine, if you believe the old seed folks, a boy of three months is about ready to go to work in the woods. so Moses' mother put him in his ark and stashed him by the river's brink where, she very well knew, Pharaoh's daughter came by times to skinny-dip. Then, ha-ha (according to Gramp), she told her daughter (the sister of Moses) to stay close to see what happened. "Chicanery!" Gramp would say. It was one of his better words.
Everything happened according to plan. Pharaoh's daughter found Moses, he squalled and aroused her "compassion," and the sister came running up to say, "I know a woman who will take care of the baby for you!" So Moses' own mother reappears, and when Pharaoh's daughter paid the mother wages to care for her own baby, grandfather just about fell off his rocker. When his hilarity subsided he said, "Read that again!"
'Twas a jolly evening, that one, and I recalled it as I fashioned the new moses cradle for donna's use. Some evening soon the neighborhood will have a "shower" for her, and I'll see that the thing is on hand.