My roommate and I found the old-fashioned wooden rocking chair at a flea market.

Typical Finnish wooden rocking chair.

Typical Finnish wooden rocking chair. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was about six months pregnant and my soft-focus mental image of rocking my new infant in that traditional, comfortable rocking chair was too much to resist.

I was, after all, away from home, in Lawton, Oklahoma, with no family, except my husband, who lived in the barracks at nearby Fort Sill, or friends, except my new roommate.

Strangely, I felt perfectly confident that I could get everything necessary ready for this new baby.

I’d been baby-sitting since I was 12. I was about to turn 21.

I had a plastic baby seat ready to prop him up on the floor, where my roommate’s cat could entertain him, or on a long bench, during dinner, so I could talk to him.

I’d picked out a bassinet.

My roommate was kind enough to get it and bring it home while I was in Reynolds Army Hospital on the base for the baby’s birth a few months later.

It’s what I used to bring the baby home after four days in the hospital.

There were no infant car seats then.

I was sufficiently worried about his rolling around in the bassinet that I carried him home in my arms instead, because, at least, I was safely buckled in.

Our husbands, both drafted six months before, in January 1968, were in Officers’ Candidate School at Fort Sill, training to be second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.

Field artillery officer candidates, they were being trained as Forward Observers, the guys who go out ahead of their unit in combat.

They radio back to their team, “Fire over here. This is where the enemy is.”

As you might expect, the enemy tries to take them out first. This military occupational specialty (MOS) was among those with the lowest life expectancy in combat.

As it happened, when my husband arrived in Vietnam on his one year tour a year later, leaving behind a wife and 15-month-old infant, they saw that he had six months of experience as a programmer at IBM before he was drafted.

They needed experienced computer people even more than forward observers and he was assigned to run the computer center at Long Binh, where he worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, except for two R&R tours, for the entire year of his tour.

The rocking chair needed to be stripped, of course. Previous owners had painted several coats of paint over the beautifully detailed engraving on the headrest on the back of the chair.

I don’t know why I thought it safe to strip it while I was pregnant.

The instructions simply said make sure there is plenty of ventilation.

I slathered the stripping liquid on the chair outdoors, on the back patio, and wiped the surfaces of the chair until all the paint was gone.

Then, I treated it with tung oil, as my husband had suggested, to bring out the rich natural finish.

It was done in plenty of time for that baby boy, born on August 27, 1968.

When we came home to Georgia three months later, my father-in-law made short work of turning a spindle on a lathe in his well-outfitted workshop, to replace the missing one.

My mother-in-law sized up the seat and made a soft cushion, with pretty ruffled edges, to finish the chair.

Eleven years later, we placed our second son in the arms of our first, as he sat in that rocking chair.

I’ve long since replaced the faded cushion and, many moves later, the chair needs a spindle replaced under the arm again.

By the time grandchildren came along, I’d moved to a larger, upholstered rocking chair in the family room.

I’d picked up another rocking chair from my mother’s apartment, when she came to live with us after her stroke, where she rocked when she wanted to be surrounded by her own things.

And, last year, I brought home my mother-in-law’s rocking chair, after she died at 95, because it reminded me of all the years she had rocked her grandchildren to sleep.

That’s the one I now use to rock my grandchildren, sleepy from bedtime stories, who, at 7 years, still ask to be carried to bed.

The old rocking chair sits downstairs, just outside my office.

Happy birthday, my grown-up son.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers


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