The Magic Rocking Chair

Submitted into Contest #224 in response to: Start your story with someone saying “I can’t sleep.”... view prompt



“I can’t sleep,” Andy whined, tugging at Momma’s blanket trying to wake her up. A storm was brewing outside and the ghostly hissing of the wind through the cracks in the windowpane only made him more anxious. Momma didn’t stir. He tugged again, harder this time, but still, she remained motionless.

Suddenly, a bolt of lightning lit up the room, followed closely by a deafening clap of thunder. Jumping at the sudden noise, his body tense with fear, Andy let out a piercing scream. He began to shake her frantically.

Finally, Momma stirred and sat up, her eyes wide with concern as she looked down at her four-year-old son, Andy, in his Spiderman footie pajamas. His sandy blonde hair was tousled and messy and his eyes were swollen from crying. “What’s wrong, honey?” she asked, her voice soft and soothing.

“I’m scared,” Andy sobbed, tears streaming down his face. “The storm… it’s so loud and I can’t sleep.”

Momma scooped her frightened and sleepy little man into her arms and held him tightly in her arms as he sobbed silently against her chest. She sat down in the large mahogany rocking chair, cradling him on her lap. The hand carved hearts and filigree wrapping around the arms and headrest spoke of magic and love. It made a quiet creaking sound as they slowly rocked back and forth; the smooth curved rockers gently gliding across the hard oak floor. Momma always said it was magical, because Daddy had made it with love … for her … with his own two hands.

Softly stroking Andy’s hair, she sang his favorite lullaby.

Hush my little one, be not afraid,

We are safe in a quiet glade.

If you are quiet and do not weep,

I will sing until you are fast asleep.

Dreams are calling, sweet and bright,

Guiding you through this rainy night.

Close your eyes, let your worries fade,

In slumber’s embrace, peacefully laid.

Sleep my little one, all is well,

A love filled story our lives will tell.

To the land of dreams, we will fly,

Momma’s singing you a sweet lullaby.

Stars are twinkling, the moon so bright,

Watching over you throughout the night.

Angels whisper, soft and low,

In dreamland’s embrace, you will gently go.

Hush my little one, don’t be blue,

Momma’s always gonna look after you.

Be you big or be you small,

Even when you’re grown and six feet tall.

Rest your head, oh precious son of mine,

In dreams where love and peace entwine.

Sleep soundly, dear, and know it’s true,

Momma’s love will always be with you.

On a stormy night, not very unlike this one, they had made up this lullaby together, singing it to each other, so everything would be alright.

Andy, his face still swollen and red from crying, was small for his age. His arms were wrapped around his mother’s neck and his head buried in the nook of her shoulder. He was exhausted, his body tired and aching, his mind growing numb from fear and worry. He was silently sending wishes to the magic rocking chair that Daddy made. “Magic rocking chair,” he silently pleaded, “please send my Daddy home soon,” hot tears rolling silently down his cheeks.

The magical rocking chair worked its magic on both of them that night, with its soothing rhythm, “creak-creak, creak-creak,” a reassuring calm, relaxing them both. After about an hour of rocking and singing to each other, both making silent wishes and prayers, Andy finally fell to sleep in Momma’s arms.

She looked down at him, lovingly tracing the curve of his soft freckled cheek and the rounded point of his small nose. The resemblance was uncanny. “He is the spitting image of Bradley,” she thought. A warmth filled Momma’s chest as the grief and sadness weighed her down.

Carefully tucking Andy into his spiderman-clad bed, made even cozier by the soft, furry blanket adorned with spiderman, slinging webs between buildings, Momma hummed gently as she tucked him in. She pulled the covers snugly up under his chin, making sure to tuck the blankets securely all around his arms, body, legs, and feet so he stayed warm and cozy for the rest of the night.

Before heading back to bed, Momma looked out the large picture window overlooking the sweeping expanse of their front yard. Bradley carefully laid every brick in the walkway winding from the driveway to the front door, creeping thyme peeking out between the bricks. He planted an acre of the softest, greenest grass, and a lovely garden with pink and yellow roses and every herb she could imagine. Soft pink climbing roses and ivy wound around the trellis leading to the front door.

The scent of earth, trees, and rain filled the air; the soft aroma of roses rising above as if wanting to tease her senses. They used to sit out on the white cushioned porch swing and breathe in the all too familiar scent. “It’s the smell of a summer night, after the rain,” he would say. “The smell of God.” They loved it. Now it fills her with sadness and longing.

The moonlight was trying to peek through the storm clouds, momentarily illuminating the playground he built for Andy - and all the brothers and sisters they thought he would have. A light rain was tickling the leaves and branches, making soothing sounds as they danced in the evening breeze. The scent of the rain was intoxicating, it smelled clean and fresh, reminding her of Bradley.

Momma’s head was heavy now, with the weight of sorrow, regret, and anguish. Her steps were slow as she inched her way down the hall to her lonely bedroom. As she looked around the room, a familiar sadness washed over her. This was their bedroom; the one Bradley had built with his own hands. It had been two long months since Bradley last walked through the doorway. The bed sat in the corner, the large frame with ornate carvings winding around each post reached up to the ceiling, a testament to his skill and craftsmanship.

She remembered when he made it for them; how proud he was of his work, how excited they both were to share their first night in it. But that was before…before Bradley left for California…before he didn’t come home … before he died.

At least that’s what they told her. Being a smoke jumper is a dangerous job and he didn’t walk out of that last fire – at least that’s what they said had happened. She tried not to believe it – deep down she knew it couldn’t be true. Bradley couldn’t be gone forever. Their love was too strong. Memories and stories of him can’t be all she has left to pass on to their son Andy.

Momma crawled into the cold lonely bed, feeling a familiar ache in her chest as she thought about all the things that could have been. She shivered under the thick quilt atop the bed and closed her eyes tightly against the tears as she whispered softly “I love you Bradley…forever I love you…please come home,” until sleep finally claimed her.

It felt like minutes passed since she fell asleep when she felt the familiar tugging on her blanket.

“I’m scared, Momma” Andy whimpered, tears streaming down his face. “Can I sleep with you?”

“Climb in bed beside me honey” Momma said groggily. Her eyes sticky and heavy.

“When is Daddy coming home?” he sighed. Momma didn’t answer.

Andy quickly scaled the side of the bed, snuggling into Momma’s warm and comforting embrace. He curled into a ball; his head nestled on her pillow. He felt safe and content, the howling winds of the storm outside drowned out by her steady breathing.

Momma quickly fell back asleep, but Andy, still fidgeting beside her rolled round and round trying to get comfortable, wrapping the blankets around his body like a burrito.

“Momma!” he screamed, shaking her frantically. “Wake up, Momma! I’m scared!”

Momma stirred slightly but didn’t wake up. Andy tried to wiggle free, but the covers only tightened around him. Panic started to set in as he struggled to break free. Suddenly, another bolt of lightning lit up the room, followed immediately by a deafening clap of thunder. Andy squealed in terror, his heart racing with fear.

“Momma!” Andy howled. “I’m trapped in the blankets,” he complained. “Will you help me?”

Momma stirred, her eyes half-open. She looked down at Andy, her gaze soft and loving. “Of course, my love,” she murmured, her voice raspy with sleep.

She reached down and began to unravel the blankets from around his little body.

As Andy wriggled free from the blankets and snuggled back into her embrace, Momma wrapped her loving arms around him tightly, pulling him close. “Shh, it’s okay,” she murmured, rubbing his back soothingly. “You’re safe.”

Momma began to slowly stroke Andy’s hair, humming a familiar lullaby. His body melted into hers as he started to relax - finally letting go of his worries that were keeping him awake.

The steady rhythm of Momma’s singing combined with the warmth of her embrace soon lulled him into a deep sleep. The storm raging outside was forgotten – he was safe now; tucked away in his mother’s arms.


They woke early the next morning to the sound of birdsong; warblers and robins were nesting in the trees overlooking the house and baby birds were starting to join in their song. The sunrise illuminated the rolling hills of the surrounding farmland, and the air was fresh and fragrant with the scent of wildflowers and the savory aroma of breakfast wafting from the kitchen.

Andy was dressed and out the door before Momma had breakfast on the table, so she took his bacon and eggs out to the playground where they had a picnic breakfast on the grass.

After Momma went back inside to clean the breakfast dishes, she could hear Andy playing out front with his toys, squealing with delight. She was happy he’d forgotten how scared he was last night, and that he seemed so happy today.

Busy with her daily chores, folding laundry, and making the beds; lost in her thoughts and sweet memories, Momma didn’t notice what Andy was saying as he played so happily on the playground Bradley had built him.

Humming a tune she and Bradley had made up, she became lost in the memory of him singing the sweet love song to her from the doorway – as he often did.

The memory felt so real she thought she could actually hear Bradley’s deep baritone voice, softly singing to her…a sweet song of love.

My sweet love,

the angel of my dreams,

the anchor of my heart,

I love you so.

God made you just for me,

I thank heaven above for you,

Thank heaven you’re in my life.

I love you so.

Momma slowly turned in disbelief, blinking back tears as she gasped at the figure before her.

Her heart leapt. Tears welled up and spilled onto her cheeks as she gazed at him standing in the doorway…. afraid her eyes were playing tricks on her.

“Am I dreaming?” Momma thought to herself. “Have I finally lost it?”

“Are you real?” she whispered quietly, barely able to speak.

Her lips quivered, hands trembling as she stepped closer and reached to touch his face, feeling the familiar pull of his body on hers. She quickly drew her hands back and inhaled deeply, tears streaming down her face as she tried to make sense of what was happening.

“Are you really here?” she thought.

“How?” she cried.

“They told me you were dead…” she trailed off, in shock and disbelief that her dead husband had come home.

“Yes, it’s really me,” he whispered.

Bradley wrapped his arms around her and held her until the tears slowed. It felt like a dream, was he really here?

“I’m so sorry I was away for so long,” he whispered apologetically.

Momma finally pulled away, looking up into his eyes. “I thought I’d lost you forever,” she said as fresh tears spilled down her cheeks.

“They told me you were dead,” she said angrily. This time she didn’t whisper.

Bradley cupped her face in his hands and gently kissed her lips, salty from her tears. He tenderly led her to the porch swing, so they could watch Andy as he played happily with his toys.

He told her about how he was supposed to parachute down with the rest of the smoke jumpers into a safe zone, where they would gather their gear and make their plan of action. “I was the last to jump,” he explained, “a firestorm broke out, and I got caught in its wind.”

“My parachute carried me far off course from where I was supposed to land,” he went on. “The wind slammed me into a tree, and I was unconscious when a backwoodsman named Tom found me tangled in the branches high off the ground” he said. “He cut me down, and when I awoke a few days later, I had amnesia from the bump on my head. I didn’t know who I was for weeks,” he explained as he showed her the large blood-crusted knot on the right side of his head.

Bradley slowly gave the gruesome details of when a body was discovered in the ashes after the fire was extinguished, “A hiker had been caught in the fire, and it was his body they found, burned beyond recognition, leaving them all to believe it was me.”

“Why didn’t Tom call an ambulance or contact the forest service and let them know he found you?” Momma questioned disbelievingly. “He must have heard about the fire… and the burned body found in the ashes!”

“Tom lives far away from the fire, and had no way to contact the authorities,” Bradley went on, “he lives completely off grid, and his radio was down. He was unaware a body had been found, or that a firefighter was missing.”

“When I was able to walk and think coherently,” he added, “I left his cabin and made my way to the nearest town, trying to find my way home.” Bradley explained every painstaking detail of the ordeal he lived through, trying to remember who he was and where he belonged.

Momma listened intently to his story, tears rolling down her cheeks as he recounted his journey back to her. She couldn’t believe he had survived all that time alone in the wilderness, with no memory of who he was or where he came from. But here he was, sitting beside her on the porch swing, holding her hand and telling her he loved her.

They sat in silence, just enjoying each other’s company and the warmth of the morning sun. Then Bradley turned to her, his eyes shining with love and affection. “I never stopped thinking about you, you know,” he said softly. “Even when I didn’t know who I was, I knew there was someone out there waiting for me.”

“I knew you were waiting for me,” he repeated. “I could see you in my dreams…just as you look now. I just couldn’t remember my name or where to find you.” She could hear the pain in his voice. “And when I emerged from the forest near a ranger station and finally remembered who I was, the first thing I did was come back to you,” he said as he drew her closer to him.

“I tried calling you, but the cell tower was struck by lightning last night,” he exclaimed “that must have been a hell of a storm!”

“The ranger that found me, is waiting at the end of the drive to take me to the hospital to get checked out,” he explained. “I had to see you first. I wanted to see you both alone,” he went on, “and then I need to be debriefed and checked out at the hospital.”

Momma’s heart swelled with emotion as she looked into Bradley’s eyes. She had never stopped loving him, not for a second.

They stood up and Bradly wrapped his arms around her tightly, lifting her off the ground, feeling a wave of love wash over them both, the air crackling with electricity.

“Daddy…Daddy,” Andy screamed. “Daddy… We missed you!” Andy, jumped up and down in excited fervor, successfully wriggled his way into the hug and up to Daddy’s shoulder asking, “The magic rocking chair brought you home, didn’t it!” more a statement than a question. “Why is Momma crying, Daddy?”

Andy was pumping out questions faster than Bradley could answer them. Momma was speechless. So overcome with emotion she couldn’t utter a word.

That evening, as Momma helped Andy get ready for bed, Bradley watched lovingly from the doorway. Momma sat in the warm wooden rocking chair, scooped Andy onto her lap and opened the worn storybook they read every night. The chair creaked a soft familiar greeting, as they rocked back and forth, words from Andy’s favorite story drifting through the room. Tonight felt truly magical as they silently savored this special moment as a family. They each whispered a silent “Thank you,” grateful their family was whole again.

November 12, 2023 22:31

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