Around the time our oldest child was born, my husband and I went furniture shopping. In addition to a decent blue bundle of couchness we purchased, we found and fell in love with what we call in the Midwest a “Lazyboy”. Brand names aside, it was a rocker/recliner, in an enormous shade of mauve, with crushed-velvety polyester covering. “Easy clean-up”!, it boasted with the Scotchgard process (which, of course, cost more and which, of course, we couldn’t live without).
We dubbed it “The Purple Chair”.
The Purple Chair was in constant use in Babyland, rocking the new baby to sleep, reading books together, the endless milky feedings, the tummy aches, the horrifying episodes of projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea (NEVER turn down the Scotchgard process, my friends). Our posteriors were never more than a few yards away from the purpleness that got us through the day.
When our second child came along, the chair went into overdrive. The toddler first-born used it as his personal spaceship. The baby girl used it as her personal cafeteria, bathroom, library, and funhouse.
To all of us, it was best served as a hospital.
Each time I was awakened by the thin moan of “momeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee”, and the thermometer was checked and the medicine dosed appropriately, I’d plop down in The Purple Chair with the sick child, a blanket covering us, sometimes a bucket beside us, and rock…so gently…my toes just touching the floor on the rock-back, and I’d rock…
The wee sick one would inevitably fall asleep, and me with them. When they were babies, it was easy: I’d hold them in the crook of my arm, my elbow wedged in the corner of the chair arm, my other hand wrapped around their belly, deathly afraid that maybe, if I turned just right, I would drop them over the side or let them slip off the front.
That never happened.
That was garden-variety mom-freak-out-ed-ness.
As the kids grew, our positions changed. No longer could I cradle them in the chair. We jostled and turned and prodded for space for two warm bodies.
When my daughter was two, I rushed her to the ER when she couldn’t breathe. The doctor’s diagnosis of croup was sorely mistaken, and the chilling word ‘ASTHMA’ crept into our house. Nebulizer treatments that prompted screaming fits were calmed by a smooth rock in The Purple Chair. Fears were soothed. Foreheads kissed. Sleep welcomed.
At about 4 years of age, my daughter started asking for The Purple Chair at bedtime, after I tucked her in her bed. “Please, can you rock me in The Purple Chair with a blanket and turn off the light?” Most of the time, this was in response to some fear or other, some need for more time with mom, a desire for closeness and security. As the chair was a feature in the living room, and as my husband and I tend to stay up late, I would tell my daughter, “Not tonight…we’ll save the chair for when you’re sick…how about I hold you on my lap and I'll sit on your bed and rock you?” A poor, pitiful substitute, granted, but soon she would be asleep, or calm enough to put in bed and snuggle beside, me rubbing her forehead, her shoulder, the sick or lonely part that she requested.
Last night. Last night, just five minutes after I crawled in bed, just a few minutes after Midnight, I heard a rustling down the hall and a small whimper, and “mommmmeeee”. I grabbed a pajama shirt and ran, naked, to my 6-year old daughter’s room, dressing hurridly in the dark.
“What’s the matter? Are you gonna throw up?”, I whispered to her.
“No, my head hurts, right here,” and she pointed to a spot in front and above her left ear.
“Would you like medicine or would you like me to rub your head?”, I asked.
After a trip for medicine, a chaser of water, and my pajama pants (to cover my below-the-waist nakedness), I played my ace card.
“Do you want to go downstairs and cuddle in The Purple Chair?”
It was as if Medical Miracle #723 came to our house. She stood up, grabbed her baby doll, and made for the doorway.
“Hold on!”, I yelled, grabbing her biggest, fuzziest pink blanket and her sweaty hand as we descended the dark stairs for the living room.
I sat in The Purple Chair, arms outstretched, and waited for her to position herself on my lap. Suddenly, her 6-year old self was a giantess, her legs nearly as long as mine, her head resting on my shoulder, her weight like 45 pounds of pink-pajamed love on top of me.
We sat back. She pushed my arms, kicked my ankles, tossed and turned and finally, oh, finally, found a comfortable space on and around me. I tossed the blanket over the three of us (baby doll rested between us), and I rocked slowly, on tiptoe, back and forth, as she pressed one of my hands onto the hurtful space near her ear. Her hand rested atop mine, rubbing my hand, as if to say, “Ah yes, that’s good, right there”, and we rocked for a minute more before she said, “Can you flip the handle so our legs are up?”
We were not a rocker anymore, but a recliner.
The furnace kicked in, and warm wisps of air drifted onto us. The cat scratched at the basement door. Our breathing slowed, and she sighed, a peaceful exhale that tickled my cheek.
I awoke at 2 a.m., her body nearly diagonal to mine, her cheeks flushed with sleep, her toes reaching for a stretch but finding only my legs in the way. I tossed the blanket off and carried her up the stairs, her long frame no longer easy to maneuver through the dark, and I was so careful…so, so careful. I lay her on her bed, and her toes found the stretch they needed. Covering her up in sheet and blanket, I felt her head once more, as for luck, and went downstairs to retrieve the blanket.
For a moment, I contemplated a little nap in The Purple Chair. A little lie-down, then a quick rest in bed before the necessity of work and school kicked alarm clocks into buzzing and morning deejays.
The lure of my husband’s warm body in our soft bed was just too much.
Besides, The Purple Chair is best when you’re sick.