Saturday, January 30, 2021

Where we will teach you how to rock

I know it sounds a bit nutty but every morning before work, I sit in a wooden rocking chair in our living room for about half an hour. 

And just rock. 

Monday to Friday. After breakfast. 

After I do the cat litter and/or take out the recycles. 

After I’ve read all the parts of the Toronto Star that I’m going to read. 

Sometimes I’ll have music playing softy while I rock, and some mornings, I’ll sip tea or coffee. 

But I don’t read or touch my phone or laptop. I simply rock and look out at the street. 

I’ve been doing it almost every weekday for the past three months. 

Not only is it relaxing, rocking's educational, too. I'll explain in a bit, but first you have to know that, yes, Iris the cat gets a piece of the (in)action.

Iris, in the early days of my rocking adventure, realized she can take advantage. 
MEMO TO SELF: Can Iris's sign guy not come
up with a Cat Ballou pun?

If you could see into our living room at, say, 7:10 a.m., while I'm still in the kitchen downing a peanut-butter-and-banana-on-toast sandwich, you’d see Iris waiting, leaning against the left leg of the rocking chair, the same way the drunk gunslinger Kid’s Shaleen’s horse leaned against the saloon in Cat Ballou.

Iris knows that when I rock, my left hand dangles down beside the chair so she can indulge herself by skulking back and forth under my outstretched fingers, effectively getting free skritches. 

But beyond that? The only muscle I need to rock is in the calf of the leg the other leg is crossed over.

The chair almost rocks itself. 

I like it best when the rocker happens to be astride a slightly squeaky floorboard, so my rock sounds like a slow metronome. 
has me chair trained.

As inevitable as Iris is that every morning now, I think a lot about my grandmother Carter, who I lived with during my first year of university. She rocked. 

Mary Bridget (Mayme) Carter, who died at 99, also had a ticking chiming clock on the mantle, which rang out the same Westminster chime that the clock we have in our front hall sings, every 15 minutes. (That’s how I know when my rock is done and I have to get to work.) 

When she was a young woman in the Ottawa Valley, where she grew up, she was a dance teacher. She married a man named Pat who was 18 years older than her and they lived on a farm in a tiny crossroads called Huntley, Ontario. She gave birth to seven kids; lived through two world wars, and the Great Depression.Mayme witnessed the arrival of air travel, electric stoves (which she distrusted at first) and microwave ovens. I also have a feeling that sometimes she cheated when we played euchre, but not much.

She was in her early 90s when I lived with her and she never let me leave the house without money in my pocket—she’d ask “do you have any spondooniks” which is such an arcane reference to money that it stumps Google. (Google did remind me, though, that the name Peter means rock.) 

One thing about Grandma Carter is that right up to the end, her mind stayed in very good shape. That keeps me hopeful about my own. I also wonder if the rocking chair contributed to her acuity.
There's nothing tedious about thinking.

Another thing? Before I started rocking, I wondered, a bit sadly, how bored she must have been, sitting rocking all those hours. 

Now that I’ve discovered the joy that can be had simply rocking, I don’t feel bad for Grandma Carter any more.

Especially when she had all those memories to enjoy.

Finally, I believe my daily rock has, without my planning it, replaced my morning commute, which I miss a lot. 

Going to and from my office was recess from life. No reading, no scrolling, just sitting in a very comfortable chair in an air conditioned car. For sometimes up to an hour. Sometimes listening to music. Thinking. 

Sounds luxurious right? Grandma Carter knew a thing or two.

Just sitting, thinking. It just might keep me on my rocker.

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