How long since you saw anybody rocking on a real rocking chair? I’m not talking about the kind that sits still and only the top part of the chair rocks. I’m talking about REAL rocking chairs, the kind with curved rockers on the bottom – the kind that makes the cats scream, grab their tails, and run with fear.
Rocking chairs are said to be a part of the American character. Back in Early American times, we were a people always on the move. We came here seeking a new beginning, a new life in a new place. We were pioneers, always moving, crossing the country, pushing the frontier, couldn’t be satisfied. Seems we could not be still, even when sitting… so we put rockers on our chairs. Today we are on the go more than ever. We have become too busy even for our rocking chairs.
Now, I had a great rocking chair at one time. It was the old-fashioned kind, dozens of layers of paint on it. My mother rocked me on it when I was a baby; then when I was too old to be rocked, it went to the front porch where the grownups sat after supper to enjoy the coolness of evening and watch the kids chase lightning bugs. When I became a mom, I confiscated it and took it home. I rocked my babies on it once upon a time. But they too grew up, as babies will. The rocking chair fell into disuse and became clutter and an eyesore.
The old rocking chair had a second life for a while. I had the layers of paint removed, the chair was refinished, and a new rush seat replaced the old one. The chair moved to my living room for a season where it squeaked and creaked if anyone used it, joints loosened by age and absence of the paint that was probably helping to hold it together. But my house now, like so many newer and smaller homes, has few nooks and crannies and no place for a big old space-gobbling chair with rockers trailing out behind and knobs bumping into things.
It’s in the attic now. Nowadays, rockers are not seen as a necessity. Baby swings are electric. Babies are rocked automatically without human intervention. But, you know, something is lost by putting our rocking chairs in the attic or relegated them to an unused front porch while we stay inside in the air-conditioned comfort. There is something very basic to about the rocking rhythm of these chairs, like being in a mother’s womb – rocking in rhythm with ourselves and with the world.
I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately for the exercise and for the joy. I like to walk late in the afternoon about twilight, when the fireflies come out and the day is coming to an end. Funny, I had not noticed all the empty rocking chairs sitting on porches before. Guess its a southern thing; I don’t remember any rocking chairs on porches at all when I lived in the North. In the South, we remember our heritage, rocking and being rocked, but we don’t rock anymore. Rocking chairs have become a decorative item, a memory of a distant past when things were simpler. They have lost their function, to rock, to soothe, to remind us of where we came from.
I think maybe I’d better find that old chair and make a place for it somehow. Maybe I need to make time to rock, to rock my grandchild like I rocked his mother and like my mother rocked me, to make rhythmic memories while there is still time.