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Two simple wooden rocking chairs. What’s so magical about two old scratched up rockers? If they were placed in a yard sale with a FREE sign, someone might take them for firewood. My grandma was about to relay any hidden magic the rockers possessed.
Every morning after our chores were finished, Grandma was sitting in her worn rocker. As I stepped up onto the wrap-around porch, she leaned over and tapped her hand in the empty seat. I knew she wanted me to sit with her for a short while, before I got ready for school. The empty varnish-worn seat was wet from dew. She pulled her spare rag from her apron pocket and handed it to me. I sat the basket of fresh eggs on the side.
“Got all of your chores done, sweetie?”, she asked. “Yes ma’am.” I replied. She was diligently crocheting lace squares to be formed into a beautiful homemade top spread for my cousin Jeans’ wedding. I sat quietly and pressed my foot in a slow rhythm to rock back and forth.
I began looking at the scratches and intricate carvings in the arms of the rocker. Perfect lines along the armrest. Yeh, perfect lines with dirt, grease and probably sweat in the grooves. Maybe some day I could save my money and buy Grandma a new rocker.
Grandma must have noticed me looking at the arms. She said to me, “These rockers may be old, but they are special magical rockers.” My head jerked up and my eyes were wide with curiosity. “You mean like a real magician, like Mark Wilson and Nani Darnell on TV?” I asked. “No, not exactly. Nothing will appear like a hat or flowers. The magic begins when you sit in them,” she said.
I gave her a puzzled look, stood up at the chair I was rocking in. Magic? What is she talking about? Had my Grandma snuck into the wine cellar again for just a taste? She motioned to me to sit down. She cupped my hand between hers. “Let me tell you about the magic in these rockers,” she softly whispered, as if someone else would hear her.
“Each rocker was intricately hand-carved by your great grandfather. His Cherokee Indian heritage ways taught him to work hard with his mind and his hands. Do you see those scratches?” She pointed to the marks at the wide top above my back. I nodded. “Each notch is a mark for the fourteen children your great grandparents had. The other connecting notches indicate the four children your Grandpa and I had. The tiny ones are all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
I inspected the rocker, as I had never done before. I thought they were only scratches from being worn. She continued, “The deep lines in the arms were prayer lines in hopes of a good crop and long healthy lives for his family. Your great-grandpa couldn’t finish the lines of hope before he took ill and went to Heaven. Your great-grandma tried so hard to keep her two smallest babies alive. A very bad drought and poor crops made her weak and sick a lot. She couldn’t provide enough milk to nurse the two babies back to health. They also went to Heaven.” I listened to her intensely.
“See where the lines in the arms change color a little? That’s when your Grandpa took charge of finishing what your great grandpa started?” I answered yes ma‘am, while running my finger up and down the armrest. I could picture my great-grandpa, with his Indian braids hanging down his shoulders carving family memories. I never knew him. He died many years before I was born. And for a moment, I remember his handsome, stern face from the framed picture that hung in my grandparents’ bedroom.
“Your grandpa worked so hard on the farm to help his mother raise her children, so they could grow up wise and good. When your Grandpa married me, he built our second home, this house, with his own hands. Since he was the oldest child, he took possession of the rockers and told me he knew where they would be placed. Right here where we could watch everything grow. He told me we would sit side by side and be thankful for all of our blessings. We even sat side by side when your Uncle Edward was in that big hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. Remember when Edward was sick?” She wiped a tear forming in her eye. I somberly answered, “Yes, ma’am, I remember.”
She sighed. “Yes these rockers have put many a baby to sleep and helped us with our grief. We watched our crops die, our children grow and gave our thanks to the Lord. We spent a lot of time hoping for a better life for our kids and asking for forgiveness. They’ve brought joy and comfort to our generations. That’s why they are worn. Worn out from all the memories they hold, like a baby in a mother’s arms.” I saw her face light up, as she smiled at me.
I think I understood what she was saying! The magic begins when you sit in the rocker. The magic was in my heart and imagination. It was the sweat, the love, the sorrow; hopes and dreams shared in countless hours in these rockers. The magic is then passed on to future generations. I knew that had to be it. I often wondered about the notches and the grooves and now I knew.
Years later somehow I acquired possession of these same rockers. They moved with me to Florida and back to Virginia, where I grew up. My place was small. Too small for two large wheel-based rockers. I contacted each living relative to see if they could use the rockers. No one wanted them and gave me permission to do as I saw fit.
The local newspaper was advertising for donations of money, furniture or clothing for the convalescent center, just three blocks from my place. I prayed about it and knew what I had to do. I loaded the rockers in the back of our truck and drove them to the front door. A very nice elderly secretary came to greet me. I told her what I wanted to donate and she blessed me for the gift. She asked me my name so she could rite in in their guest book of donations. She commented on how beautiful they would look in their community visiting room and said, “Are you sure you want to part with these rockers?” I told her yes but there was only one request I had. I would like to give them a poem to post near the rockers. She said that would be fine. While two young men carefully took the rockers out of my little red Toyota, she read the poem I wrote.
“These are two MAGICAL rockers.
The magic begins when you sit and rock.
Go ahead, sit and rock for a few minutes.
Can’t you feel the magic inside your heart?
Can you imagine the memories of others
Or from within yourself of special moments?
I did. Each and every time I felt it.
I imagined many a baby put to sleep,
A grandpa carving a toy on the front porch,
Or a grandma crocheting a lacey spread.
I give these MAGICAL rockers to each of you,
Hoping they will bring you joy and comfort
And happiness to your hearts, as they did for me.
The MAGIC comes from passing it on to others.
So sit back, rock and let your imagination
Take you to a special place, a special time
In your MAGICAL wooden rockers.”
“Donated to John Randolph Nursing Home
In honor of my grandparents, Mary & Paul Skroback”
The elderly stout secretary pulled her tissue from her pocket and said, “My oh my, what a beautiful gift you have given to us. They will be taken care of. Please come visit us anytime.” She gave me a hug.
I drove off with tears dropping profusely on my mint green blouse. I was glad that I only had three blocks to drive. It was the longest three blocks of my life. I had given away possibly something of value. The rockers were antiques. But I remembered how the convalescent center needed them more than I did. Besides, I could always visit. The most important and valuable gift to me were the wonderful memories that my grandparents shared with me.
If you own a rocking chair or know someone who does, sit and rest a spell. Close your eyes and think of all of the memories you can create in your rocking chair. The next time you sit in your rocking chair or see an elderly person sitting on their front porch, you will remember the story I just told you. You will feel how it in your heart and it will last a lifetime.
I ride past the nursing home almost every day. I admire the peaceful garden surrounding the duck pond and always slow down for possible ducks crossing. I can imagine my grandparents sitting in their rockers in Heaven giving me a blessing and telling me that I did well. I never did buy my grandma a new rocker.
(WRITTEN AND DEDICATED TO MY GRANDPARENTS, MARY & PAUL SKROBACK I am very blessed.)
Paula Leslie (PAL)
"Give a little of yourself each day to someone in need and you will be rich in your heart."