The newspaper ad read, “Wanting to buy: An old comfortable rocking chair.”
My ad was answered in a heartbeat, and an address was given me. So I went to the house and knocked. The door was opened by a small, elderly woman with white hair drawn back into a tight bun at the nape of her neck.
She ushered me into her old-fashioned living room but avoided my
questions about the rocker. Instead, she asked about my plans, my
interests and how I felt about old furniture.
After what seemed like an extremely long time, the old woman became silent. Then she cleared her throat and began to tell me a story:
“When I was a little girl, many years ago, my family lived on a farm near Carthage, Missouri. We were poor but happy, and the weeks before Christmas were spent preparing food and each of us hiding out homemade gifts to be exchanged.”
“On Christmas morning, everyone had a gift – except my father had not given my mother a present. As she tried to hide her disappointment, father donned his winter hat and coat and started through the snow-covered yard towards the barn.”
“Morning chores were over, but father did not return to the house. Wiping the frost from the windowpanes, we looked eagerly across the fields, but he was nowhere to be seen.”
“Then my brother with his nose pressed against the window, called out, ‘I see father coming from the neighbors – and he’s carrying something on his shoulders!’”
“The large object he was hauling became larger as he approached. Then father stepped into the kitchen and unwrapped the most beautiful oak rocking chair I had ever seen … his gift to mother.”
“After harvest, he had ordered the rocker from our latest Sears and Roebuck catalog. A wagon delivered it to our neighbor’s house, where it was lovingly wrapped and stored for the autumn in their barn.”
“Mother gently touched the rocker, moved it close to our pot-bellied stove, sat down and gently began to rock. This gift of Father’s was a loved and cherished Christmas present.”
“Mother spent many hours beside the stove, rocking and enjoying the aroma of baking bread.”
The woman then turned to study me.
“I’m all that’s left of our family,” she continued. “They’ve all died, and I have no one to care for mother’s rocker. It must go to someone who will love, cherish and keep it always.”
I paid her for the rocker and carefully loaded into my pickup. As I drove away, I could see the woman watching from the doorway. Touched by her story, I stopped for a while to talk to my grandfather.
I repeated the story and I could see that he, too, was touched.
“Leave it here,” he said, “and I will glue the joints for you.”
For the next few years, every time I visited my grandfather, he was sitting and rocking in that old chair … and not a word was ever mentioned about returning the rocker to me.
Years later, after my granddad passed away, the golden rocker came back to me. With its arms worn smooth by the touch of loving hands, it now sits in my living room.
Each year at Christmastime, I sit in the rocker and think of a snowy morning and a loving father’s gift to his bride, and then remember my own grandfather.
I cherish that Christmas rocker and will make sure its story will live on – when someday it is passed on to the person chosen as its next owner.
To reach Ted W. Stillwell send an email to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 826-896-3592.