Swish, thump. Swish, thump. Floriana Hall rocked back and forth on the hardwood floor, feeding her newborn granddaughter, Nikki, in the old rocker, and wondered idly how many feedings she had given to babies during her lifetime.
The new parents, Floriana’s daughter, Joyce, and son-in-law, Ed, were living with Floriana’s family for a while, and everything was going well. Except for the middle-of-the-night feeding. That one was awfully difficult for Floriana, even though she wanted to give Joyce a break once in awhile.
Swish, thump. The rocker went on with its steady beat. Floriana’s thoughts turned to her own mother who had died suddenly. Floriana still remembered how shocked she had been, upon hearing the news. Her mother was only 59 years old. Floriana, with five children yet to grow up and have their own families—her mother would miss all that! She couldn’t stop weeping about it.
Then one night in a dream, her mother had come to her. “Floriana,” she had said, “I want you to go on with your life. I’m fine and happy.” It was a turning point for Floriana. She had stopped mourning after a time and gotten back to her usual chores and schedules. And now here was this baby—new life filling their home! It was a delightful time, and even though Floriana was enjoying it, she still occasionally found herself thinking about her own mother. How she wished for a small sign, anything to let her know that Mom was watching over them from heaven, and knew that baby Nikki had arrived.
Swish, thump. Swish, thump… Little Nikki had fallen asleep, so Floriana carefully carried her into the spare bedroom and put her down. She was a good baby, except sometimes at night, when she got on a crying jag. Their house wasn’t very big, so when Nikki was awake, Floriana and Joyce were, too.
A few days went by. “I think the baby’s getting ready to stop that middle-of-the-night feeding,” Joyce remarked to Floriana one morning as they prepared breakfast. “She slept through until past four this morning.”
The following night, Floriana was in a deep sleep, when she heard Nikki’s little whimper. She squinted at the clock. Two a.m. No, Nikki was old enough now to go back to sleep. She didn’t actually need this feeding. Floriana told herself all this, as she listened to see if Nikki was going to be cooperative. It didn’t sound like it.
Well…she sighed. Joyce had taken the feeding the past few nights, maybe she should get up. Slowly, she swung herself up to a sitting position, reached for her robe, and…
Swish, bump. Swish, bump… It was the welcome sound of the rocker. How could Joyce have warmed the bottle already? But Floriana wasn’t about to argue. Swish, bump… It sounded like everything was already under control. Gratefully, she snuggled back under the blankets.
The following morning, Floriana was cooking breakfast when Joyce came into the kitchen. She put her arm around Floriana and gave her a big hug. “Mom, thanks. You’re a doll.”
“For what?” Floriana asked as she kept scrambling eggs.
“For getting up last night with Nikki so I could sleep. It felt so good.”
“What are you talking about?” Floriana turned the stove off as both husbands came into the kitchen. “I didn’t get up last night.”
“Sure you did, Mom. Just like always. I heard the rocking chair.”
“Maybe she just stopped crying and went back to sleep by herself,” Floriana suggested. “She did that once before, you know.” But Floriana had heard the swish-thump of the rocking chair, too.
The men were astonished. “I hardly ever hear anything,” Ed admitted, “but last night I heard the chair, too. It went on and on—I remember wondering if you were going to rock the baby until dawn.”
Joyce and Floriana never found an empty bottle, nor did Nikki end her night feedings for a while after that. But Floriana never again wondered if her mother was aware of what was going on in the family. Mom would “be there” for all the special events that still awaited them. Floriana knew that now for sure.
Joan’s new book Where Angels Walk is the 25th Anniversary Edition, available now at Loyola Press. Joan Wester Anderson has written many books on angels and miracles. She can be reached at P.O. Box 127, Prospect Heights, IL 60070.