The Chairs That Kept Coming Back

Flashback to 1978. My paternal great-grandfather was a retired Methodist pastor. He and my great-grandmother lived in a little old house in New Jersey, where my mom and dad would come visit from time while they were still dating. Whenever my mom and dad came over, Great Grandpa would pull out from the closet two small, folding rocking chairs for their guests. They would sit and rock and talk and sit and rock and talk. These two chairs were solid wood rockers, with upholstered seats and backs, and a bit of carving at the top. They were low enough to the ground that the two recent college graduates had the awkward sensation of their knees being propped up a little higher than was comfortable. But spending time with grandparents is important, and it was a small price to pay. Great-Grandpa was always full of stories and wisdom, and Great-Grandma could sing any hymn on the spot – all the verses, word for word.

Fast-forward to April, 1979. My parents were married in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where they would both be working for IBM. Great Grandpa and Great Grandma Wilson came to the ceremony, proudly delivering their wedding gift – a new set of identical folding rocking chairs.

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It’s too bad my mom wasn’t the biggest fan of those chairs.

But they took their dutiful place in the closet, ready to be taken out and used if company ever came and wanted to sit and rock and talk.

Twelve years and two kids later, my parents were getting ready to move from the Hudson Valley to South Florida. In the process of cleaning out the house, they held a large garage sale. The two rocking chairs did not make the packing list, so out to the driveway they went. They were purchased by an older couple from our church, affectionately known as “Papa” and “Mama” Tatsche.

Great-Grandpa’s uncomfortable rocking chairs had been conveniently done away with, or so we all thought.

It wasn’t too many years later that Papa and Mama Tatsche also moved to Florida. Our family drove over to Naples to visit them in their new apartment, and had a wonderful time catching up with them. My sister and I were in grade school by now, and were as enthralled by the chance to be in a new place as we were by the jar of candy that sat on the coffee table. As we were about to leave, Papa Tatsche caught us in the foyer and said, “You know, we live in a smaller apartment now, and we need to get rid of some of our belongings. However, I just can’t bear to part with those chairs we had bought from you all. We’ve decided that you should have them – you can store them away and give one to each of your girls as a wedding present one day.”

I’m sure my mom must have inwardly groaned as she cheerfully and thankfully loaded the rocking chairs into the van for the journey home. My sister and I were pretty indifferent to the situation…if anything, it just seemed weird that someone would give us back the chairs that we hadn’t wanted in the first place.  Those ridiculous, uncomfortable chairs just kept coming back! How could my mom get rid of them now?

So, the infamous chairs that kept coming back were dutifully stored in our guest room closet for two more decades and two more cross-country moves, waiting for my mom to find an appropriate, dignified way of disposing of them.

Fast forward to this summer. Mom and Dad had re-modeled their bathroom and put in a brand new walk-in closet. In the process of moving into their new space, they took the opportunity to sort through the contents all of the closets in the house, which they had lived in for almost fifteen years by now.

The time had come for the dreaded chairs to make their final departure from my parents’ thirty-four year marriage. So, into the Goodwill pile they went.

And there they sat.

And sat.

Because nobody could quite conveniently bring themselves to drop those ancient chairs off at the thrift store.

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Change of Scene: At about this time, my little eleven-month-old was going through an anti-crib phase, where she was suddenly refusing to nap in her crib. She would sleep there fine at night, but during the day, it was a different story. Even if I nursed her to sleep and softly crept up the stairs, as soon as I crossed the threshold of her room, Julia would wake, arch her back, and loudly protest any attempt to put her in the crib. She would rather stand in there, gripping the rails, and yelling her little vocal chords ragged for an hour, than actually lying down and sleeping in her crib! I tried everything. In the end, the only thing that started to have some success was to actually nurse her in her room, wrapped in her blanket, with the sound machine and fan on full blast. That way, I just had to tiptoe a few steps before gently placing my tightly-wrapped bundle in the crib, and although she usually opened her eyes, she was comfortable enough to fall back asleep on her own. (Babywise mamas: Don’t hate. These are desperate times.)

Anyway, all that to say, there was not a chair in the nursery for me to sit in during this process of getting Julia to fall asleep. And since, in my mind, this was just a temporary solution to fix a temporary problem, I didn’t want to exactly go out and buy a piece of furniture. What could I use to rock my baby to sleep, besides the awful step-stool I was currently using to sit upon every day?

And that’s when I remembered the infamous chairs that kept coming back!

By this time, one of them was in complete disrepair, but the other was holding together just well enough to make it through this last mission. It has been sitting humbly in the nursery corner for a week now, where I go several times a day with Julia to sit and rock and hold and sit and rock and pray. Until she drifts off to sleep soundly enough that I can put her in the crib without a catastrophic reaction.

And since I’m only five feet, two-and-five-eighths inches tall, it’s okay that the seat is so low to the ground. I need my knees a little propped up anyway, to hold my little bundle without killing my arms. And it’s okay that the upholstery is sagging in the bottom, because it’s a reminder to be thankful that I’m not sitting there on a stepstool.

And it’s also a reminder that this is a temporary arrangement. Julia will not hate her crib forever. She won’t wake up in the middle of the night forever. She won’t be teething forever. She won’t have to be nursed to sleep forever. This too, shall pass. And then, it will really be the end of the line for Great-Grandpa’s rocking chair.

But just as it will be with much reluctance that I say good-bye to that old chair, as uncomfortable as it was, it will also be with some sadness that I move past even the difficult stages of Julia’s life. Because as uncomfortable as it is at the moment, I have to remember that one day I will look upon those nap time nursing sessions with great fondness and nostalgia.

In the meantime, I think Julia’s Great-Great-Grandpa would be proud.

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Cousins on the Couch

“Here I am, chilling with cousin Kate.”

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“Hey, what’s that cool thing she’s playing with?”

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“Maybe if I move my hand over just a leeeetle bit, she won’t mind.”

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“Ooooh! I’ve almost got it! I just want to touch that screen!”

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“Hey, how did that happen?”

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“Here’s my silly cousin Luke. He makes me laugh.”

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“I like it when Luke gives me big hugs!”

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“Okay so maybe this hug is too big.”

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A Member of the Homemaker Club

Look at these lovely ladies.

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Aren’t they beautiful??

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Our women’s Tuesday morning Bible Study at church had their annual ornament exchange today. I’m so excited that I get to be a part of this group, digging into God’s Word with some of the Godliest ladies I’ve met! They come from all backgrounds, all stages of life, but they have one thing in common: they have sacrificed much for their families and homes. Before I left my full-time job as a teacher in order to be a mom, I longed to be a part of this crowd of (mostly) experienced moms who are farther along in their spiritual journey. I love being surrounded by such wisdom.

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There are some people who cringe at the word “homemaker.” Or “housewife.” These terms conjure up images of the 1950s for some people who believe that women have evolved and modernized themselves. Women today should strive for goals involving careers, progress, and material wealth, right?

But I don’t agree.

My mom was the valedictorian of her high school class, was the first in her whole family to graduate from college, and has a degree in computer science. But starting the day I was born, she became a full time homemaker. She packed our lunches every morning and made us dinner every night. She was there with a band-aid and a hug right after my first day at a new school when I fell on the playground and skinned my knee. For my 4th birthday, she dressed up like a clown, made little clown suits for all of my friends, and turned our minivan into a clownmobile. Our summer vacations got planned to the nth degree with trips to the beach, sewing projects, handwriting practice, sleepovers, and books. She sat down with us for prayer time every single day before we all raced out the door in different directions, and we eagerly anticipated her first-day-of-school cookies each year. (Through college, even.) Mom pitched a tent in the backyard for us when we wanted to “camp out,” and she was there to welcome us back in the house at three in the morning when it got too cold. I learned how to cook and sew, how to communicate and forgive, how to love. She could have chosen to keep her job at IBM and pay someone else to take care of us, but instead I had the priceless security of knowing that after school it would be Mom helping me with my homework and listening to me practice the piano.

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I am so blessed to be able to give this gift to little Julia. Going from full-time teacher to full-time homemaker was the biggest promotion I could ever receive, and I am proud of the fact that my #1 responsibility is to take care of my little girl. It definitely requires sacrifice, but my Tuesday morning friends are quick to remind me that it is totally worth it!

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