Before my mother died when I was a teenager she asked her cousin—my godmother—to look after me in whatever mysterious ways my father couldn’t. For many years, neither of us really knew what that meant. Then I got pregnant. Surely it was her job to throw me a baby shower.
I was of “advanced maternal age” at 37 years old, so I had accumulated some ideas about how the baby thing was going to go down. No pink. No diaper genie. No plastic junk.
My mom’s cousin, careful not to overstep her bounds, asked if she could be the one to buy me a rocker or glider. I had researched rockers and gliders and thought they were mostly hideous to look at and also too big for the nursery we were setting up in our small house in Queens. I told my godmother thanks but no thanks. She bought me one anyway.
I was mad at first. I didn’t even take it home from the shower (it wouldn’t fit in the car!). But she insisted I would need it. I rolled my eyes, but the chair and its stuffy blue-and-white stripes found their way into my house somehow. The stinking thing even had an ottoman that rocked.
And then the baby came.
Oh, the hours I spent in that chair! My husband, too. Everybody who came to visit in those early days ended up in that ugly glider. We have photos to prove it. It became the place we nursed, the place we read, the place we cuddled and played peek-a-boo, patty-cake and more. Eventually, I had to admit that I was wrong, and say a proper thank you to my godmother.
I probably read Goodnight Moon about 1,800 times in that chair and sang “Rock a Bye Baby” at least a few hundred times, for sure.
I watched a mouse run across the room in the middle of the night once (eek) and rocked feverish bodies back to sleep many times.
I spent countless hours in the glider listening to the sounds of night—to breathing and thumbs being sucked and sirens rushing off to help less lucky people.
I had to yank tiny bodies off it when they were old enough to stand on it and rocked it too hard. I shouted, “Stop it! You’re hitting the wall!!!” more times than I care to admit.
Eventually, the glider was put out for the trash. Our youngest daughter moved into a big-girl bed and we started to cuddle and read books there instead. The chair was stained to the point of embarrassment, anyway, and wasn’t at all salvageable for someone else so it was the end of the line for ole stripey. But we had a good run, me and that glider chair that I never wanted.
Almost seven years.
The room has an easel now and a toy kitchen and small vanity, but when I walk in there I can still see the glider and changing table and crib. Getting rid of that stuff was the proverbial end of an era, and I am as excited about where I am in this whole motherhood journey now, as I am wistful about things long gone.
But I still miss the chair—the chair that showed me that I am not always right. That I don’t always know what I need. And that it is good to have people like my godmother in your life when you’re about to become a mom. People brave enough to occasionally steamroll you for your own good.
There are still dents in the wall behind where the chair used to be and my inclination is to leave them there as reminders of the dents we all have in our hearts—caused by love and loss and babies that grow up so very fast. So thank you, godmother. In case I never said it. It was the perfect gift.