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The Rocking Chair...

My mother gave me everlasting life.
And it resides in a rocking chair.

With her final paycheck from her last week at work, Mona Thompson purchased a Lazy Boy recliner rocker. This is 1963. Not a lot of rocking chair choices for expectant mothers back then, so my Mom went all out and bought a solid piece of furniture that she thought would last. I’m not entirely sure she thought it would last this long, and have adventures few rockers do.

Eating celery sticks like some kids eat candy — on doctor’s orders to keep her weight down due to high blood pressure — Mom, for the first time in her workaday life, stayed at home, sat down in her new chair, slowly rocked back and forth, and watched a soap opera… on the late morning of Friday November 22, 1963. Little me rocking from within, the rocker and my mom rocking from without, discovering that even soap operas can be interrupted for real breaking news, the kind that ushers in new life with the death of another.

Six months after my birth, people in Washington DC and around the world still grieved for the slain president, and I wailed, too, sitting on my own now in the rocking chair. My pain, however, lay external, due to a severe ear ache from tonsillitis, but it afforded a very young, first memory of what would be many with my lifelong pal. In the days that would follow, I would go under the knife, too young for that much lauded post-surgery ice cream. Overthinking, surely, the connection between sorrow and joy, but a kid who doesn’t get that coming-of-age treat as all other kids do… well, that’s foreshadowing of a life where rewards will only be hard work earned.

Flash forward a year, and I’m dolled up in a white silk dress. It’s my first birthday, you see, an occasion to be celebrated like man walking on the moon or New Year’s Eve. I must have sensed the haughty affair, as a photograph captures me smiling wide with laughing eyes. For the first time in my tiny life, I’m happy… sitting in the rocking chair.

“Oh, Mona, what an adorable baby picture. You should enter Barbie’s photo into a baby contest,” a friend said.
Smiling with pride as any mother would, my mom said after a chuckle, “Oh, no.”

Boasting, bragging, public exposure for mere beauty… no, that wasn’t how Mona was raised, and she would not raise me thus.

Childhood years would melt one into another as I usurped my mother’s chair and claimed it for my own. If the chair could walk with each robust rock I gave it, we must have rocked around the world, several times. As a toddler, I wore the original upholstery clean through to the padding, and over the decades, the Lazy Boy endured three recoverings and four spring set replacements. From the start, I was no shrinking violet, and would clock many of life’s miles in that chair, rocking full-on, no gentile action from this kid, no hesitations made. If in life one must rock, then one must rock with gusto.

I and my rocking chair travelled across Canada four times; it in moving vans, me in cars, both of us barrelling down the Trans-Canada Highway in good weather and bad — through heat, humidity, rain, fog, sleet and driving snow — forward to life’s promised moments and retreat from sorrow-filled times. With each move, the chair snuggled in tight with the other furniture, my rocker travelling without me. When we were apart, I would erase all thought of it sitting empty and cold. When we met at our new destination, I would greet it smiling wide with laughing eyes and warm its stiff frame with my body. Together, at last! To rejoice, the chair would gently creak as we rocked — the sonorous equivalent to a purring cat.

My rocking chair is now 56 years old, one year my senior. My mom having passed three years ago, I and my chair live as orphans. These days, the Lazy Boy sits in my master bedroom, officially retired, put out to pasture, for its arthritic frame can no longer endure boisterous rides. It groans more than creaks when my body fills its seat, its bones suffering from old age, as mine are, too.

I don’t know when it happened, but I eventually outgrew the chair. It no longer physically cloaks me nor offers me the emotional security it once had. That fact has been hard to swallow.

Maybe that’s what happens when you age. Maybe you simply outgrow life’s earthy realm, yet with its soft creak as I gently sway, we both still want to live. There are more years ahead; more sights yet to see. The chair and I have lived as one, experienced as one, loved as one and cried as one. It survives as my rocking diary. My soul is connected to the chair as sinew connects muscles. I fear that when one dies, the other will surely follow.

In this life, I could eschew many a material thing, but my mother’s rocker will never be one. It was the first earthly thing my soul felt by its side, and it will be the last material thing I touch as I leave this great world.

To end as another begins — is that not the true meaning of life everlasting?
The rocking chair knows. It sits silent, and waits.

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B J's Bookshelf...

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Hobbit
Sessions
The Joy Luck Club
All the King's Men
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Mansfield Park
Faust: First Part
The Catcher in the Rye
Islands in the Stream
And the Sea Will Tell
Animal Farm
Charlotte's Web
Sophie's Choice
Angela's Ashes
Memoirs of a Geisha
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The Hunt for Red October


B. J. Thomspon's favorite books »

B J's Literary Heros ~ Ernest Hemingway ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald ~ James A. Michener ~ Herman Wouk ~ James Jones ~ Vincent Bugliosi

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