19: The Rocker

19: The Rocker

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great

The Rocker

A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance.

~Author Unknown

I stumbled with exhaustion, searching for the ringing telephone. Colicky three-month-old Max slept only two hours at a time, and my husband was away traveling again. My fatigued body ached. I found the phone under a receiving blanket and answered it.

My mother asked, “Is Max sleeping any better?”

“A little.”

“You’re not getting any sleep, are you?” She sounded worried.

My gritty eyes burned. “Not much.”

“That must be so hard.”

My throat closed. “Oh Mom, I’m exhausted! I can hardly think.”

“I’m coming up.”

Outside my window, a December blizzard moaned through the darkness. My mother would have to navigate icy canyon roads to reach my house. I said, “It’s snowing hard here. Don’t come. I’ll be okay.”

“I’m on my way.” She hung up. Tears of exhaustion and relief blurred my vision. My mother has always been my rock.

The usual thirty-minute drive took her an hour. My mother arrived looking rosy-cheeked from the cold, snow frosting her reddish-brown hair. She took baby Max from my arms and ordered me to bed. I said, “But Max needs to eat in the night.”

She shook her head. “I know how to warm up formula. Go to bed!” Her determined look told me not to argue.

My soft pillow beckoned to me, along with my cozy down comforter. I headed upstairs feeling relieved, but lying in bed I couldn’t sleep. Guilt overwhelmed me. I should be able to take care of my baby. At least I could have offered to help. My mother wouldn’t have let me, I realized. I heard her coo to Max as she climbed the stairs. Soon the rocking chair in baby Max’s room creaked, back and forth, back and forth.

Suddenly I remembered my mother rocking me when I had the chicken pox. I was too big for rocking, but blisters invaded my throat, my ears, even the back of my eyelids. As we rocked my mother sang, “Rock-a-bye my big-big girl.” The monotonous chant comforted me. I slept. When I woke in the night my mother offered sips of water and laid cold washrags across my burning forehead. I slept fitfully, but in the morning the blisters had crusted, and I felt better.

Now I could hear my mother chanting to Max, “Rock-a-bye my ba-by boy.” Her monotone relaxed me, just as it had when I was a child. I slid toward sleep, knowing my baby was in capable hands. In the morning, I’d hug my mother, thank her, and tell her how her love had rocked both Max and me to sleep.

~Kendeyl Johansen
Chicken Soup for the Mother & Daughter Soul

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