The threadbare rug protected the hardwood floors from the old rocker, but nothing could stop the comforting sound. The chair moved back and forth, back and forth, as steady as a metronome. Her feet were wrapped in well-worn slippers. Snaps and crackles came from the slow burn in the fireplace, and the baby in Robin’s lap cooed contentedly in her sleep.
It had been a long night. The baby had colic — such a nice name for something so ridiculously awful. The child had been up crying half the night for no apparent reason at all. The only thing that seemed to calm her was the steady rocking of that chair. And so Robin rocked on, half asleep herself, thinking about things from years gone by.
That rocker had belonged to her grandmother. The house was new, the fireplace barely tainted with soot, the hardwood floors laid only last year, but that rocker was all over a hundred years old. It had been handed down to her grandmother by her own mother, and maybe handed down before that.
The seat and arms had worn to a smooth shine. The back was curved just so, created by someone who obviously understood what it felt like to need a little support while rocking a colicky baby.
From one generation to another …
Robin remembered how her grandmother had rocked in the chair, her eyes half closed but still somehow able to hear every little noise the kids made in the house. Now that she was a mother herself, she understood. It was a certain hearing unique to parents, to grandparents, to those responsible for little lives.
It was also a sixth sense that said what those kids would do, when they would do it and maybe even why. Even when it appeared her grandmother was asleep, Robin and her brothers knew better than to try to get away with anything, like stealing cookies from the jar or sneaking out the backdoor. Grandmother always knew.
And her mother…
Robin wondered if her mother had ever rocked her in this chair. She had her doubts. Her mother was a very sophisticated woman, one who had kept the old rocking chair only out of a sense of duty. She wasn’t one to carry on traditions. After Robin’s grandmother had passed away, the rocking chair sat in the corner of her mother’s guest room, collecting dust. It made for a quaint decoration, but her mother much preferred the high-backed chairs in the parlor, the ones that sat very still on their stately legs.
The baby began to fuss. Robin wondered if babies had the same kind of sixth sense that their parents had, if they could sense troubled thoughts and be upset by them. She wiped her mind clean of anything but the sound of that old rocking chair.
“As nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs …”
She suddenly remembered an old saying: “As nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” She looked across the room to see Sunny lying on the couch, staring at her with his feline eyes half-closed. She rocked a tiny bit harder, the creak became a tiny bit louder, and the cat’s eyes popped wide open. Something about that made her laugh, and she had to stifle the sound before she woke up the baby.
Calm you right down
The baby…this precious daughter of hers. The father of her child was sound asleep upstairs. Right now it was just her and the little one in the arms of that rocking chair, and that felt like a precious gift. She knew that one day, she would pass this chair on to the little girl who was now soothed by it. She would tell her all the tales of her grandmother rocking in that chair, and then tell her the tales of nights like this. “You screamed your head off all night until I had the sense to sit down,” she would say. “That chair just calmed you right down.”
The moonlight fell through the windows and made shadows on the floor. In the fireplace a log fell with a solemn thump, sending up a comforting blaze of light. The baby took a deep breath and wiggled a bit, then settled down again.
And that old chair rocked on.