The Mahagony Rocking Chair – A Lesson

I wrote this piece in 1996, before I started writing long fiction. In it, you will find a lesson for all of us about the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. This is based on a true incident in my life and the note to my parents’ is the real note that my mother kept all her life. I have the note to this day.  The piece won a first place award in an American Christian Writers contest and was published in four Christian publications: The Standard, The Vision, Christian Reader, and The Lutheran Digest.

The Mahogany Rocking Chair
by Gail Gaymer Martin

Sitting in my living room is a mahogany rocking chair which has been there for twenty years. Before that, the chair sat in my parents’ living room for more than two decades.

The chair brings back many memories, but most of all, it brings to mind a lesson of love.

When I was ten, my parents celebrated their fifteenth wedding anniversary. For this occasion they purchased a special gift for themselves, the mahogany rocking chair. It was something they had wanted for a long time. Also to celebrate the occasion, my father surprised my mother with tickets to see the coloratura soprano, Lily Pons.

My grandfather also had a living area in our home, and so my parents were confident that I was mature enough to keep an eye on my sister with grandpa nearby, while they attended this long-awaited concert. Jan was four years younger than I. They knew we would be fine for the evening, and with excitement mom got ready for her special evening out. Jan and I sat on her bed and watched her as she finished her preparations.

“Your dress is pretty, Mama,” Jan said.

“Yes, it is pretty , isn’t it.” Mom moved from side to side looking at her reflection in the glass. “I feel like a queen today. Your Dad is making this a very special anniversary.”

We smiled as Dad walked in. “Who’s that lovely lady you two girls are talking to?” Dad grinned, and we both laughed. “The white steed is ready at the gate, Cinderella. If we don’t get moving, we’ll be late for the ball.”

Mom laughed and kissed us good bye. “Remember, girls, no soda pop in the living room. Love you.” And they were off.

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We both looked at each other and knew what she was worried about, her new rocking chair. As careful as girls can be, sometimes accidents happen. So I was careful all evening to remember “no soda pop in the living room.”

Jan and I became bored with the game we were playing and, finally, settled down to a jig saw puzzle that mom and dad had been putting together on a card table in the corner of the living room. Time passed quickly as we concentrated on locating those strangely shaped pieces that we knew were there, somewhere. It did not occur to me that Jan had left the room, until, suddenly, I heard an “Oh, no!” Before I turned, I knew what I was going to see.

“I forgot.” Jan looked at me with tears running down her cheeks, “I was thirsty , and I forgot. ” Behind her sat the new mahogany rocking chair. In the middle of the seat lay a puddle of clear liquid.

“What did you do.” I pressed my fingers against my eyes. “I can’t believe you did that.”

“I was looking at the puzzle and tipped my glass. I didn’t mean to spill it. But it’s not soda pop.” Her voice lifted with confidence. “It’s only water.”

“But you knew we were not to have drinks in here.” I ran to the kitchen for
a clothe to wipe up the spill. “I’ll try to fix it.” But I wasn’t very confident.

“They’re going to be so mad at me.” Jan’s sob followed me into the kitchen.

I hurried back, hoping to waylay her fears. “I’ll tell them it was an accident. They’ll understand. Maybe they won’t even notice.” But all the while I spoke, I was also trying to convince myself. I could not believe what was happening. The beautiful red wood had lost all of its color. Where the water had been was now a murky white spot.

“What will we do?” Jan stared at the spot in disbelief.

“They love us more than a chair.” I tired to sound brave . “I’ll write them a note, before we go to bed, and put it on the chair so they won’t be mad at you. Okay?”

Jan nodded and watched as I found a piece of paper and wrote the note.

Dear Mom and Dad

Please don’t be mad, Jan turned your chair white in some spots. It was an accident. I tride to polish it, but it didn’t help. She spilt water on the chair. Mom, don’t give her a wipin, though. We are sorry. We love you.


The next morning when I woke, I heard mom in the kitchen preparing breakfast. She and dad were talking quietly, and I wondered what would happen. Before I could think, mom was at our bedroom door. Tears in my eyes blurred my vision as I looked toward her. I felt terrible about ruining her new rocking chair.

But instead of being angry, mom walked over and put her arms around me. “That was very nice what you did.”

“Ruining your chair?” Unable believing to what I heard, I could only whisper.

“No.” She smiled. “Writing that note to help your sister. It showed a lot of love and caring for her and for us, too.”

“But I felt so bad.” My voice sounded far away. “Your beautiful new chair is ruined, and Jan felt so bad. I should have watched her more carefully.”

“Come here.” Mom gestured to me. “I want to show you the chair.”

I didn’t want to see the chair. I knew what it looked like because I had tried so hard to make it look better the evening before. Mom gestured again, and so I followed her into the living room.

“Look.” She gestured, and I looked at the chair. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was like a miracle. The chair looked new. There were no cloudy white spots, no stain. It was as if nothing had happened.

“Mahogany does that.” Mom gave me a tender grin. “It turns white when it gets wet, but goes right back to it’s natural color when it dries. This is just how it looked when we got home last night, a perfectly lovely chair, except it had your note on it.”

“I’m glad.” I held back my tears and tried to sound brave. “We never meant to make it look ugly and stained.”

“Maybe this is a good lesson. It will help you to understand something your dad and I have taught you since you were little, except now it will have more meaning.” Mom put

her arm around me, and we sat on the sofa, “You know, the water on that chair is just like sin.

It takes something beautiful and stains it and makes it less than what it really is. But Jesus comes along and touches our lives with His love and His forgiveness and makes us whole again. Our stains and spots are gone, and we are beautiful again in His sight. When you remember last night how that chair looked, and then you see how beautiful it is again today, you can understand what I mean.”

I nodded, truly understanding what my mother meant.

That day, I, actually , learned three lessons. First, I learned the importance of sisterly love, how families stick together and help each other in times of trouble and need. The second lesson was what I learned from the love of my parents who forgave us for our carelessness and thoughtlessness because they loved us, and because we had been truthful and repentant of the mistake that we made.

But probably, the most vivid picture that comes to mind, when I look at that chair in my home today, is the lesson I learned from my mother about our Savior. I remember the white murky stains that blemished the lovely wood, and it reminds me of the sins, both known and unknown, that enter my life daily. If it was not for the love and forgiveness of Jesus, I would also be blemished and spoiled by sin. But just as my mother taught me as a child, God in His mercy, listens to our cries for forgiveness and looks into our hearts and makes us whole again, new and shiny, like the mahogany rocking chair.

Though published in 1996, the rocking chair has remained in my home all these years. This is the last photo taken of my brother, sister and I with our Mom the Christmas before our mother died.


Leave a comment
  1. Hannah Alexander July 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    What a beautiful story, Gail.

  2. Gail Gaymer Martin July 14, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Thanks, Cheryl. I teared up today writing it. I know you’ve been through losses lately so you understand. My mom’s been gone for ten years but it seems like yesterday.

  3. Lyn Cote July 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    A lovely story, Gail.

  4. Deborah Raney July 14, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Beautiful! What a wonderful memory and precious lessons.

  5. Lucy Naylor Kubash July 14, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    I enjoyed reading your story, Gail. It’s memories like this that help keep families strong and together. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Rhonda Gibson July 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    Such a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it Gail.

  7. Peggy July 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    A beautiful story, Gail. Precious memories.

  8. Janet Lee Barton July 14, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    Wonderful story Gail. Wonderful lesson and precious memories. Thanks for sharing it.

  9. Bonnie Engstrom July 14, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    This lovely story, Gail, and your mother’s love lesson has given me the perfect way to explain Jesus to my precious grandchildren when they make mistakes. Thank you so much.

    Bonnie Engstrom

  10. Gail Gaymer Martin July 14, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    Thanks so much everyone. The story is special to me and also when it sold and won the award, it validate a new writer who hoped to succeed. God had so much in store. : D Bonnie, I’m so pleased that the story gave you some ideas to share God’s love with your grandkids. Blessings everyone.

  11. July 14, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    Such precious memories to carry through life, I can see why your Mom kept that note and why you never forgot that lesson about sin’s stain being erased By Jesus. Thanks for sharing this with us, Gail. May your Lord’s Day be blessed.

  12. Gail Gaymer Martin July 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    Thanks, Wade. My mom kept so many wonderful pieces of memorabilia. They are treasures. Have a blessed Sunday too. I’m only singing at one service tomorrow. That’s easier. Two makes it a long day.

  13. Debbie Clark July 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    That is a very beautiful story! I never knew that Mahogany would do that. I am so glad that you girls did the right thing.

    Debbie Clark

  14. Gail Gaymer Martin July 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    You’ve all been so kind. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed this piece. It certainly brings back memories for me. My sister-in-law read about this on FB while she is on business in Korea. She told my brother to read it. Hopefully he did. He wasn’t born yet – but he remembers the chair and our parents. He’s in the last photo in the piece. Again, thanks.

  15. Mary Hawkins July 16, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story, Gail. And your mother’s love and wisdom is still being used today to bless so many of us right here on your blog.

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