Dangerous Rocking Chairs

September 16, 2010


When I was growing up, we had a TV room, not a family room. The TV room was relatively small because you couldn’t sit that far away from the tiny screen. I prefer to remember it as compact.

The origin of the TV tray occurred about that time. One could sit in the overstuffed chair, lean forward until you were straining at your belt, and scrape food off of a plastic plate secured in the depths of the TV tray. The device wobbled about on its four spindly legs, and occasionally the tray would fold up spontaneously, usually just before you got your first spoonful of fresh peach ice cream. Remember, in those days, fresh ice cream meant a turn of forty minutes at a crank while sitting on a wet towel soaked with salt water. It makes my bottom itch just thinking about it.

My mother finally decided that eating in front of the TV was unhealthy, so the overstuffeds were replaced by platform rockers which were impractical from the point of view of a TV tray.

Some of you may not know what a platform rocker is so I will describe one. Regular rocking chairs, as you may know, rock back and forth on the floor and generally tend to walk their way across the room. The resulting collisions and territorial disputes are decidedly inconvenient if you are watching Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show, or, perhaps equally important, watching a very young singer named Barbra Streisand singing the minute waltz in one minute. A platform rocker solves this problem by providing a fixed track for the chair to rock in. Neat?

The platform rockers were the seats of choice. The competition could be fierce in case there were one too many viewers. How relaxing, back and forth, a bare toe pushing off the cool tile  floor every few cycles, a can of beverage (a coke in my case) held in one hand and a contraband Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup clutched in the other. The trick was to sip at the right point in the cycle so the foam wouldn’t roll back in your throat and choke you.

On the other hand, there is much to be said for avoiding rocking chairs. It is undoubtedly a fact that, of people using rocking chairs most frequently, more die shortly after rocking than almost any of their other activities. It is mere coincidence that the largest population of people using rocking chairs is over sixty. Possibly desperate mothers under 37 should be included, but that would skew my argument.

Both of my grandfathers died shortly after they relaxed in a rocking chair, and my own father succumbed the same way. In fact, the rocking chair in my bedroom is the same chair that sat nearest to the fireplace in the corner of the living room.

This was why, this morning, when I unloaded the unfolded laundry from the rocking chair in the room, I felt a sudden cold chill. I had been about to sit down. I might never have gotten up again. One push leads to another, and pretty soon one is so relaxed that one might forget that there are books to write, people to love, grilled salmon to eat, and dishes to be washed.

About charles frenzel

I've been writing all my life. I've also painted, composed, sculpted, contributed to molecular research, advanced some mathematical concepts, lived on a sailboat, and worked for a Nobel Prize winner. Nothing in my life has pleased me more than to share my life with my wife and friend of over forty years.

View all posts by charles frenzel

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