In today’s youth-obsessed society, the rocking chair gets a very bad rap, probably because many equate the rocking chair with old age and old age with death, so, just the mention of a rocking chair sends many fleeing, emotionally, from the mere concept of it. This is very sad to me, because the rocking chair of my memory is so much more than a place to cradle old, decrepit bones that are headed for the graveyard.
In Grandma Lee’s kitchen, between the heater side of the stove and the china cabinet Grandpa Silas built for her, sat a marvelous old rocking chair. It was dark brown and strong and broad of back. The seat was so wide it could sit Grandma Lee twice so you know it had no trouble sitting she and me together, which it so often did. Grandma Lee took the time to customize her rocking chair with love and warmth; never did I see it bare. It was always covered in beautiful throws and afghans, made by Grandma Lee, herself, ailing with pretty pillows, some hand made but all designed to surround a body with soft comfort and support.
I have so many memories of me and this rocking chair, none of which have anything to do with old age or dying. This is the chair where Grandma Lee rocked her own newborns to sleep and continued its tradition with me. I can’t tell you how often Grandma rocked away the pain of a scraped knee or the discomfort of a cold or fever. Here is where I whispered my youthful secrets in my Grandma’s ear. Here is where I discovered who I was as Grandma Lee built the foundation of my self-identity with tales of my ancestors, my relatives and my family history.
And here is where she read to me. I have no doubt that my love of words and my passion for writing was born and nurtured in Grandma Lee’s rocking chair. When I was very young, she read the Golden Classics to me. Two that I particularly remember are The Poky Little Puppy and The Little Engine That Could. I still vividly remember how excited I would always get when the little engine was trying so hard to make it up the hill; “I think I can, I think I can!” I would say with the little train, eyes closed, fists balled up with intense mental effort; and then, “I knew I could, I knew I could!” Then I would shout with pure delight as I and the little train triumphantly coasted down the side of the hill together after making it over the top. I recognize that I was, no doubt, a very imaginative child which is what allowed me to immerse myself so completely in the stories, but, I believe it is here, in Grandma’s rocking chair that I developed very defining trait, extreme determination. Anyone who knows me well will confirm that the best and perhaps only) way to get me to do something I don’t want to do is to tell me I can’t do it.
When I was a little older, the Golden Classics became Youth Classics, The Five Little Peppers and How they Grew,: Trixie Belden, and The Bobbsey Twins. So many rainy afternoons were spent at Grandma Lee’s feet, sipping hot chocolate with marshmallows (the real kind of hot chocolate, not a quick mix!) I learned so much from these books! About how to comport myself, with manners, in social situations and how to solve childhood problems in constructive ways. People don’t read as much as they used to, to their children anymore, electronic devices and Internet streaming have replaced this to a large degree. But, when one sees the content that the children are absorbing day and night, some of the social mis-behaviors we witness in children today may not be so very surprising. I know that I mimicked what I read. no doubt the children of today are merely mimicking the digital information they are absorbing.
On quiet evenings, just before bedtime, Grandma Lee would stimulate the vast landscape of my imagination with Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Anderson (who could ever forget The Little Match Girl?) and the Arabian Nights. She left these books in a neat pile beneath the seat and between the rockers so that, when I was old enough, I would sit in the chair and strive until I could read them for myself. I have no doubt at all that the poor literacy rates in our public schools could be greatly improved by a few more rocking chairs and grandmothers ike Grandma Lee.
If I am honest, I will include the fact that, yes, during her final year, this same rocking chair did bring warmth and comfort to Grandma Lee’s aging body. At the end, it was I who was reading to her as she sat wrapped in pretty woolen shawls that I crocheted for her to keep her warm. But, is this a bad thing? Something to be feared? Or is it simply a natural progression of care that a rocking chair provides during the duration of a life? Should we fixate on just one aspect of love dispensed by a rocking chair (care and comfort for aging bones) or should we widen our perspective to include the whole spectrum of loving care, starting with loving and nurturing our newborns?
I think if we, as a society, were not so fixated on being twenty or younger forever, we would come to understand that the cycles of life are normal and natural and instead of trying to escape them, we would embrace them and enter each phase of life with enthusiasm and a sense of adventure. We would live well every moment, and make each moment count.
This is how Grandma Lee took on every phase of her life including the final one. It is my intent to do the same just the way she demonstrated it for me. Despite the way of the world, I have no interest in being twenty again. Twenty was nice, but so was thirty. And forty. There is just so much more to the experience of life and living than the concerns and challenges of being twenty. And, anyway, despite all of our fears and best efforts, we are all going to age, And when we do it will not be the fault of the rocking chair. When we are aged, it is the rocking chair that will show us what a good friend it can be. I say, why wait until we are old to make that discovery?
You may be interested in the recipe for hot chocolate that Grandma Lee made for me. You will need:
2 heaping teaspoons of Dark Dutch Chocolate (Drost is a good brand)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream or evaporated milk
2 tablespoons sugar (adjust to your personal taste)
¼ teaspoon Vanilla Extract (homemade if possible)
Place chocolate powder, sugar and cream/milk in a mug. Stir together to make a smooth paste. Add boiling water to almost fill the mug. Stir to blend. Add vanilla and top with the marshmallows. This is delicious! i’m confident you will love it.
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