© Copyright 2021 by Ruth Truman
I turned on the prized console radio and pushed the rocking chair next to it, then ran to wake up my grandfather, still in bed recovering from working all night on the railroad. It was WWII and he was an inspector, keeping the trains running so the soldiers could get to their assignments. It was an important job. In the morning he would often bring home little gifts left on the trains for the little girl I was: a whistle, a pen. But the best thing was climbing into his lap as he sat in the rocking chair to listen to the country music that filled the living room. My older sister had grown too big for his lap, so he was all mine. We would sing along off key and Fluffy, the dog, would howl with us. Sometimes Granddad would pull out his harmonica and Fluffy’s howl was all either of us could hear. When that happened we doubled over with laughter.
The chair was not remarkable. Handmade of oak, circa 1900, there were no nails holding it together, just pegs and four screws attaching the rockers. The back was called a ‘violin’ shape. The arms were just right for the average person. Granddad had it made for Nannie, his wife and my favorite grandmother. It squeaked when you rocked in it, and even I could make it squeak if I rocked fast enough.
Granddad would come home from the railroad about seven every morning, eat a mighty breakfast of home cured ham and fresh eggs, applesauce, and the biggest, fluffiest biscuits you can imagine. Nannie would bustle around her big farm kitchen, making sure that he had everything he wanted. Breakfast over, he and I would go inspect the farm, talk to his foreman, check the cows and horses, look in on the chickens, and then Granddad would go to bed until the middle of the afternoon when the Red River Valley Boys came on the radio.
Then he got sick, so he and Nannie moved into a little house in town, close to relatives and their church. The rocking chair went with them. A stroke took his life at 57, but not before he became a city commissioner who spoke to everyone he met, calling them by any name that popped into his head. We would drive around in his old truck. He’d call out, “Hi, Joe (or Pete or Harry), how’re you doin’?”, so when they had his funeral the church was packed out. Even the black people came....
Nannie sold the place, and after trying to live with my parents, which didn’t work, moved into a tiny four room house. The rocking chair went with her, but now its oak arms were too hard when she would sit in it to sew, so she padded the arms and the back to make it “fit her old bones”, she would say. She sat in it until she was 89.
The chair was the only thing I wanted that had been Granddad’s and Nannie’s, so my sisters agreed and the rocking chair moved from Kentucky to California to my house. Now its wood was dark and the upholstery faded, so one day I decided to reupholster it. Lo and behold! Under the upholstery was the beautiful oak from its early days, a stark contrast to the dark arms, legs and rockers. There was nothing to do but refinish it to its original wood, then cover just the remaining seat.
The rocking chair has moved with me six times since then, and the seat has been recovered several times. I sit in it at least once every day and remember Granddad and Nannie and how much they loved me. Perhaps one day in the future one of my grandchildren will rock his or her babies in the old rocking chair, and if it could sing they would hear, “Oh, the moon shines tonight on pretty redwing....” and the creaking of the rockers would hide the sounds of generations long gone chiming in, “the night is flying, the nightbird sighing...”
(Ruth has a new book called Not
Of This Fold. You can learn more about it at http://www.1stbooks.com
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