Monday, February 2nd, 2015...8:53 pm

The Thing Itself

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“Still, this indiscriminate love feels entirely serious to her, as if everything in the world is part of a vast, inscrutable intention and everything in the world has its own secret name, a name that cannot be conveyed in language but is simply the sight and feel of the thing itself.” –The Hours 

I had planned ahead.

“You’ll want a glider,” a friend had told me. “You’ll want it to recline and glide. You’ll spend hours in that chair. Get a nice one.”

It was going to be the nicest piece of furniture we owned. I stood in the store when my baby bump was still barely visible and I picked out the finish and the fabric and the model that would fit perfectly in the corner of the tiny nursery we had just begun to plan and envision. It was the kind of chair that took months to get, so I had to plan ahead, order early.

I wanted to be ready.

When the chair arrived in oversize boxes that rolled off the truck and into our house, I was weeks from giving birth. I was tired and growing still, worried about my rising blood pressure and the looming early delivery, the bedrest that didn’t feel so restful in our still unfinished house.

We opened the boxes as I anticipated resting my pregnant body in the chair that would recline and rock, that would ease me into motherhood.

But it was the wrong chair. It was dark finish and brown fabric. Mine was supposed to be white painted wood with green and white checks.

It was the wrong chair and the nursery wouldn’t look perfect when we brought our first baby home.

Nothing would be perfectly planned anymore, really.

The chair was my first lesson in motherhood.

“We are so sorry,” they said. “We’ll get you the right one right away, as fast as we can.” And they did. It was even nicer than the one I’d ordered, all the extra features thrown in as a customer service apology.

In the wrong chair and then the right one, I learned to be a mother. I sat patiently with my oh so tiny baby who would hardly wake to nurse. I took her tiny clothes off to try to keep her awake, lifted her chicken wing arms as the nurse had shown me, held her close and balanced her on the pillow and against my breast.

And I rocked.

In the wrong chair and then the right one I sang her her first songs and read her her first books. I kept the baby books, filled with answers and advice, within arms reach, talismans against doing anything wrong. I kept pacifiers she’d never take in the side pockets just in case. I fell asleep with her snuggled up on me, smelling like spit-up, milk leaking through my shirt.

And I rocked.

In the chair I held her as she suffered her first cold, coughed her first coughs. I held her, wrapped her in blankets, checked her temperature and cried because I felt so helpless. And because I was so in love.

And I rocked.

In the chair I held a second small baby, a boy who was never quite as sleepy as the first. I held him tight, smelled his baby smell, reclined into the sunshine to soak up the beginning of who he was and will be. Put my feet up and rocked him in the quiet moments we stole together.

I propped him up for pictures in the chair, the sunniest spot in our house on the mornings when it was just he and I, when we were simply looking into each others’ eyes for love and affection and the memory of those first moments. When time slowed and I could examine each tiny dimple on his hands, the way his knees disappeared into his chubby legs, each new hair sprouting on his bald head.

I nursed him all night for too many nights, until I was so tired I couldn’t see straight and he was so miserable with ear infections he couldn’t sleep. We rocked and rocked and rocked and the rhythm of the gliding got us through until we asked for help.

And I rocked.

In that chair, I learned to be a mother. To let the unexpected be expected. To sit and stare and love. To laugh when there’s no other choice. It’s where I sat to memorize the way her face puckered up and her body stretched as she emerged from sleep, the way he smiled with his whole body, projecting happiness throughout the whole room. It’s where things went exactly as I thought they would and exactly the opposite.

In that chair, I fell in love.


“What do you think?” He asked.

“I don’t know. You’re the one who thinks we really need a nice chair,” she said.

“Oh. You’ll want a chair,” I said. “You want this chair.”

The Thing Itself

I sold the chair this weekend.

Someone else can rock and learn the love that cannot fully be conveyed in language.


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