The woman ahead of me in line at REVIVAL dragged a maple rocker. She hoisted it to the counter and glanced at me. I flashed a smile and said, I have one just like that at home. Something dark and unrecognizable fIickered across her face.
The hum of the place surrounded us — the heady glare of the sun through the wide glass windows, the murmuring of couples wandering in the paths between the rows of furniture and lamps. Two clerks spoke in low voices a few feet from the register, the man’s hand resting on the woman’s arm. I tried to follow the conversation on their lips. Tension played across the female clerk’s brow.
The woman with the rocker made a funny noise and turned to me. She spoke in a raspy voice, an old smoker. I’m going to paint it white for my daughter-in-law’s baby. My eyes widened but I willed my tongue to stay silent. She said, I’ll put some cushions on it, make it look nice. My mouth drew itself down; I tightened my stomach. The woman took a step towards me and I said, finally, Is the rest of the furniture white?
That look flashed across her features again. She shook her head and said Yes, well, it’s going to be. That’s my gift to them, I have to buy all the furniture. I think this chair will look nice when I get it all painted and put cushions on it. She reached out and pushed the chair a little. I held back my thoughts about her plans. Instead I mentioned how wonderful my own chair had been to rock my son, the length of the runners making its motion soothing, its stance close to the ground so I could use one foot to keep it going. The woman raked her glare up and down my body, then replied, Well, my daughter-in-law is tiny. I suddenly felt huge and sucked in a long breath, holding it, willing my 5-4, 115-pound frame to shrink.
The clerks finished their argument and the woman turned to cash out the rocker lady. Then the customer lifted the chair down and dragged it out the front door. I watched her pull the chair through the door, willing her to turn, to change her mind, to let me save that gorgeous rocker from the sacrilege of white enamel paint.
When I had paid for the computer desk which I’d found in the back room, I pulled the Prius around to the loading door and met up with Eric, the downstairs attendant. I don’t know if it will fit in my car, I said, and Eric beamed at me. I’ll put the seats down, he replied. It will fit.
Astonished, I turned and watched as he did just that. I had no idea. Oh my gosh, I gushed. My new best friend! Eric chuckled and hauled the desk into the back of the car. He gently closed the trunk lid while I chortled and danced beside him. Then I clapped my hand against his and hopped into the car, driving home slowly, my rear-vision blocked but my heart a little lighter for the gift of Eric teaching me something about my car that I had not previously known. The seats go down. The seats!
At the house, I made a cup of tea and sat in my rocker, the twin of the one that the grumpy mother-in-law had bought to fulfill her unwanted obligation. I ran one finger down the smooth worn spot on its arm, where the finish has yielded to twenty-five years of my hand’s light touch. The owners of a used furniture store in a strip mall on the south side of Fayetteville had given me this chair during my pregnancy. The wife said, I used this chair to nurse all three of my children. I lowered my heavy body into the chair and gave it a tentative nudge. I closed my eyes and wrapped my arms around the baby in my belly. I surrendered to the rocker’s gentle glide. I could have sat that way forever.
I have seven rocking chairs in my home, and one in my office. I’ve never painted any of them. I cannot bear the thought of painted wood.
As I sat last evening, rocking, rocking, rocking, I worried about the tiny daughter-in-law and the baby whose looming birth caused that woman in REVIVAL to harbor so much anger. My rocker did not match the store-bought painted surfaces of the crib, cradle and changing table in my baby’s room. But it was perfect anyway. And no resentment lingered within its calm embrace.
It’s the seventeenth day of the thirty-first month of My [Never-Ending] Year Without Complaining. My curious life continues.