My Grandmother's Rocker
Near a window in the den of the house I grew up in sat my grandmother’s rocking chair. It wasn’t an ordinary rocker; it was a platform rocker, with thickly padded cushions and wooden arms. These arms, marred by the tooth-marks of a long-deceased family dog, were rather like those of an Adirondack chair, large and flat, the perfect shape on which to rest a book. Because it was on a platform, the chair moved smoothly back and forth rather than dipping dizzily up and down as do curved bottom rockers. It squeaked slightly when it rocked.
My grandmother, a large woman with an ample breast and pillowy front, napped in this rocker each day after lunch. She sat in it to read her daily Bible scripture and the latest James Mitchner novel. As she read, she moved the rocker slightly with a gentle push of her right foot.
But the best thing about my grandmother’s rocker was that I was often invited to share it with her. “Do you want to sit on Grammy’s lap?” she’d ask and, of course, I always did. I’d settle into her soft folds, we’d set the latest book on the wide arm of the chair, and step into the story together.
We began these sessions after my grandmother purchased a several-volume set of Bible stories whose airbrushed illustrations of Adam and Eve and Jesus and his followers I found beautiful and inspiring. We took turns reading. At first my grandmother would read whole pages while I stumbled through a few sentences. Eventually, we’d each read a page, always marking our place so that we could resume the next time exactly where we’d left off. We read of Moses’ rescue in the bulrushes, the secret power in Samson’s hair, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
I learned to read during those quiet moments cuddled in my grandmother's warmth. Moreover, I learned to be a reader. To listen to the rhythm of the language, to contemplate the characters' choices and the consequences of those choices, to ask unanswerable questions, and lose myself in worlds old and new, real and imagined.
The tick of the old banjo clock, the squeak of the rocker, the murmur of my grandmother's voice formed the soundtrack to the happiest moments of my childhood. Enthroned in the shabby rocker with the Queen of My Youth, I was rich, indeed.