Guest Blogger: Gail Osterman
When my first child was born, my creative, soulful mother-in-law from Bucks County arrived at our house with what she called “The Family Rocker.” This old high-back rocking chair (estimated to have been made between the years of 1780-1810), was, in her experience the perfect size and proportions for nursing and rocking a baby. It has sustained her and her four boys in their babyhood, and, she explained, since we had the newest baby in the extended family, the family rocker was coming to live in Pleasantville, NY.
Little did I know what a thoughtful gift she had bestowed upon us. Not only was it well-suited for nursing, but the curve of the rockers, the height of the arms, and the sculpted seat indeed also made it the go-to-chair for soothing a crying infant. Whoever designed this chair, certainly got the ergonomics right! (In my fantasy, I have to believe it was some loving husband who crafted this special rocker for his wife and the new life in their family.)
The years passed…another baby joined our family. What started as a nursing rocker morphed into the “Reading Chair.” Many happy hours with my girls were spent cuddled together exploring bedtime stories. The girls grew older, but the rocker, nonetheless, was always the favorite place to read, with or without mom. So it was a bittersweet day, more than a decade later that the rocker moved back to Pennsylvania to enrich the lives of the newest family babies in Washington Crossing.
Fast forward another decade. An “alum” of the family rocker was soon to be a first time mother. It was time for the family rocker to move again. This time, it made a pit stop in Pleasantville, NY for a bit of TLC. It seems four babies, who grew to toddlers, and then young ladies had left their imprint. While the patina was rich, the years of dirt, the gummy grime, and, yes, the nail polish drips had to go.
It started with a good washing with Murphy’s Soap, followed by a treatment of wipe on stain and finish. Since the rocker is made of three different kinds of wood, it took an artist’s eye to coordinate the stains so they all looked the same shade on the chair. The decades of wear had left some creaks and squeaks…but not a problem. A trusty bottle of wood glue and a strap (pony clamp) made short work of that problem. A final rub of lemon oil…and the family rocker was once again baby ready! (We know, some would argue that a chair like this warrants more than a spruce-up every three decades, but the goal here was rooted in emotions, not in restoration.) A new cushion cover (hastily done…after all baby was coming) completed the project.
Onward to Boston to meet the newest occupant…one-day-old baby Eliza. She would soon follow in the tradition of nine other family babies, including her mother and grandfather, who in decades past had been rocked by their loving mothers. Someday, when tradition continues, perhaps she will be the mother caring for her baby in the Osterman Family Rocker.