I ordered a set of perfectly pink chairs for my living room. They are small and bright and cheery. They flank the stack of pink suitcases that we use as an end table, and I adore them. They are replacing a large leather-type reclining rocker that we bought right before Emerald was born. I have never loved the rocker. The material it’s made from is cold to sit on at night. When she was a newborn and we spent many hours there every day and night, I would cover the whole thing with blankets to try and make it less shocking to sit down in, hazy as I was from lack of sleep.
She always loved being rocked. I remember the long days when she was only happy in my arms, in that chair, and I would sit there endlessly watching what felt like my house crumbling around my ears. I would get so frustrated, sitting there forever with this tiny baby girl who just seemed to need her mama every minute of every day.
She grew, and she gained some independence. At four, she is itching to start kindergarten and is anxious to dive into all of the exciting things that life has in store. She loves going places and seeing people, so she begins every day by asking where we’re going. But, she has always been a mama’s girl. And, for all of these years she has been likely to ask for “one minute” of rocking before bed that would often turn into lots of minutes, she and I recapping the day together while the other kids were already sent to bed.
But, we haven’t done that in awhile.
She goes to bed with relative ease now. Instead of asking to rock, she will ask me as many deep questions as she can think of right as I get her tucked in. I answer a few and then start inching toward the door, admonishing her to get quiet and still because it’s time to sleep now. This was our routine last night at bedtime. Before long, she was fast asleep, looking big and much too grown up despite the well-loved pink blankie she clutched in her still chubby little hands.
Last night when she called me from her room, it was four in the morning. It’s been quite awhile since she woke up in the night, afraid, groping in the semi-darkness of her otherwise cheery room for her only mother. I didn’t wait. I went to her, and even though my eyes were still blurred from the deep sleep I had been enjoying only seconds earlier, I kissed her and smiled at her and told her that there’s no reason to be afraid.
She seemed wide awake. I wonder how long she had been in her room, wishing that it was morning. I wonder if she had been singing happily to herself as she often does when some unknown noise somewhere made her suddenly afraid and lonely.
I watched her in the dim light. Her eyes darted around the room, and then settled on me. I felt her relax. She gathered her blanket to her as a ritual of comfort and peace. And then she said, Can we rock for just one minute?
I started to reach for her when I felt a wave of shocked sadness wash over me. We had moved the rocking chair to the hallway by the front door, ready to carry out to the truck to deliver to a friend. I had given away my rocker, and I hadn’t even realized that this would mean a forever end to Emerald’s requests for a minute of rocking.
The chair is gone, I said aloud, more to myself than anyone. But, Emerald whispered in the yellow glow of her closet light, reminding me that it was sitting right outside her room, in the hallway. Forgotten there, displaced, oddly in the way.
I picked her up, and we walked to the worn chair. We sat down there in the hallway, her sleepily pressed up against my chest, and I covered us both with her blanket. The porchlight shone through the cut glass on our front door as I rocked my baby girl, the last little person God blessed me with, for what was likely the last time.
I don’t know how long we sat there, rocking in the dark. She never went to sleep. It felt like we were both just savoring a rare moment. It isn’t often in the journey of motherhood that you recognize when you are doing something for the last time. We must’ve sat there in contented silence for at least forty-five minutes, enjoying the peace. The closeness. The calm and comfort of the sway of a rocking chair. Then suddenly she looked up at me and said, Mama, has it been a minute yet?
And, just like that, it was over. She was ready to go back to bed.
I carried her to her room and kissed her soft little face. She smiled at me in the cool of her tiny girly room. I walked out of there, past the oversized rocker that stood like a comforting sentry at her doorway. I touched it with my hand and sent it rocking there, empty, with the porch light streaming in on it in flower patterns through the glass. I turned and walked back to my room while Emerald quietly sang happy songs to herself.
A few hours later when the sun came up, she called me again. I didn’t even look at the rocking chair there beside her door as I rushed into her room and scooped her up. She smiled her brightest smile and let me hug her tight. Mama? she said, arms around my neck as she leaned back to look at me, Where are we going today?