ROXANNE ROWLEY: The Rocking Chair

Guest Columnist

My paternal Grandmother had a plain wooden rocking chair. It was not fancy at all. The wood had darkened and the arms were worn smooth with age.

It was big enough for two or even three small children to sit in, or one adult and one child. When we were little we liked to rock that old chair as fast as we could. It would shift until it bumped the wall and we had to move it so we could rock like crazy again.

The rocking chair was in the dining room, which made sense since that was the center of the old farmhouse.

I remember Grandma rocking her younger grandchildren to sleep in that old wooden chair. She would hum a wordless tune or murmur sweet nothings into the child’s ear, holding him or her close and rocking rhythmically until the child fell asleep.

The rocking chair had a distinct squeak from years of use that accentuated the cadence and the rhythm. If Grandma stopped rocking the little one would wake up, but as soon as the cuddles from her and the squeak started again, the child fell back to sleep.

When our daughter was born, we bought a rocking chair. It was upholstered and very comfortable. And it had a particular, but rhythmic squeak when rocked. Then it was my turn at softly humming a wordless tune and murmuring sweet nothings into my baby’s ear until I could feel her small body relax against mine and fall asleep. I often continued rocking, just enjoying the sweet contact of that special silent communication between a mother and child. And when our son was born that rocking chair ritual happily continued. It was one of the favorite parts of my day.

The rocking chair got plenty of use when our children were toddlers crabby from teething. And when they were sick with a cold or just feeling out of sorts, the rocking chair and its comforting squeak and predictable rhythm calmed a fussy child. It also helped relax a sometimes frazzled mother!

The rocking chair was also a comfortable place to read favorite stories to the children. Their little bodies would be pressed close so they could enjoy the pictures and look at the text. Both of my children grew up be avid readers, partly as a result of that rocking chair reading time.

Several years ago we had our well-used rocking chair reupholstered. I carefully picked out the fabric. The chair needed a bit of reconstruction. But my one special request was to please leave the familiar squeak. Happily the upholsterers followed my instructions.

The children in our family are grown up and there are no small ones to rock to sleep at the moment. But that doesn’t stop me from relaxing in our comfy old rocking chair. I close my eyes as I rock and enjoy the familiar and comforting squeak. And I recall my grandmother all those years ago rocking her grandchildren in her old wooden rocking chair. It is a reassuring connection to her and to her memory.

Roxanne Rowley is a retired early childhood educator and consultant. She enjoys writing and has had numerous articles published related to early childhood issues.


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