My English 201 students are challenged at the end of each semester to write their own “This I Believe” essay. Made famous by the iconic Edward R. Murrow, a large selection of these essays are housed on an impressive website and several compilations have been published. My student’s statements of truth never cease to move and surprise me–both in content and honesty. This semester’s savvy group put forth the question–had I written my own treatise on what I believe? My sheepish answer was no…until now.
It was a bitter cold night five Decembers ago when I moved into my current home. Arrangements had been made to move out while my daughter and soon-to-be ex-husband were away, and I had no idea who I should ask for assistance. The situation felt so awkward, personal. Friends had chosen their camps, me or him, and I felt odd asking even those I considered the closest to me to become more involved in the soup of this divorce. I put the call for help out to my classes. A hulky, sweet kid named Corey offered his pickup and strength. The other volunteer was one my dearest friends and confidants who secured a pickup from her relatives. The three of us worked all afternoon and into the chilly evening, hauling what constituted my life–clothing, furniture and personals–eight doors down the street. My new life wasn’t far in terms of proximity, but it may as well have been in another time zone.
I remember the feeling of alone as the Hulk and Confidant left that night, the last transfer complete. Boxes and containers surrounded me. I drew a bath and found a radio. What I remember the most is the one piece of furniture I introduced to my new living room. It is a curvaceous rocker, once belonging to my great grandmother on my father’s side. The style is exquisite–narrow lines that curve from back to front and elegant cutouts. I went that night, flush from the bath, and sat in the rocker. At first, I simply listened to the familiar creaks and the quiet. I began to rock. It was the most natural, calming action for that space, at that time.
I rocked and I cried, taking in my decision, my new situation, and knowing I was exactly where I needed to be.
I believe in rocking chairs.
I know a woman who has won national awards for being an outstanding elementary principal. She keeps a rocking chair in her office for angry and upset kids. She understands that innate need to move rhythmically, and how doing so makes it impossible to stay firery. Everything about a rocking chair, when you are in motion, is about comfort and regularity. Angry kids come in and when asked to sit in the rocker, she sees a physical change in demeanor. It calms them.
Comfort and regularity is what I craved after my divorce and certainly during times since. I held my daughter Emma while rocking and crying during many nights in my empty living room as we worked through the foreign feelings that so often come with big change. I wondered, during these moments, how I would ever make my house a comforting home again.
There is something utterly simplistic and base about a rocking body. Seen without a rocking chair or child, one instantly suspects madness. Why is this? Isn’t it a natural tendency to move our bodies in a gentle, fluid dance reminiscent of childhood? When one stops to think about it, we tap, pat and sometimes smooth our hands on our own bodies without giving it a second thought. I think these motions are all related to sensations of soothing self. Once, standing behind a woman with an upset child at the grocery checkout, I found myself subconsciously swaying my body in an effort to soothe the tears. I still like to be soothed myself.
The family rocker still graces my living room where it serves as a beautiful instrument of functionality and comfort. My living room, home and life are abundant and full–books, furniture and warmth surround me. The rocker is there, too. Still elegant and spare, it continues to offer respite to any who need to sit and before they know it, rock.