From the Front Porch Swing


From the Front Porch SwingFrom the front porch swing of my grandmother’s house, everything slows to a crawl. I have spent weeks and weeks of my life in and around that home. I can remember sleeping on a well-worn mattress, listening to rain hit the tin roof, and feeling the hot summer breeze blow the curtains into the room. Granny’s house is not just full of memories. It brings up a feeling and a calmness. I feel safe there on that front porch – the trees, the birds, the quiet country road – they are an escape from the busy-ness of life. Everything moves slower in the country on that porch.

My kids think Granny’s house is safe and magical. My kids understand how I feel about that sacred place and share my feelings, although at 4- and 5-years-old, they cannot verbalize it yet – they just show it. They run in the back door, slamming the half door into the mudroom space with a crash, and after a quick hug to my granny, they run into the room that has been a playroom for as long as I can remember. The toys haven’t changed much either, but they do not care. They don’t ask for Legos or TV, and they are never bored there.

As a child, I can remember breaking beans and shelling peas from the garden, finding it fascinating that what we were working with our hands could be our dinner that night. I can remember fighting over space on the porch swing, sometimes piled in each other’s laps, and I remember the chains on that swing breaking on more than one occasion, sending one side of the swing to the ground. I can remember killing flies with a fly swatter while watching birds and butterflies feed on Granny’s countless flowers and feeders. I can remember mooing at the cows across the street as they lazily wandered around the nearby pasture.

My grandparents were married for over 50 years, and they went together like biscuits and gravy (which, by the way, my Granny makes the best of both – no argument). They built a modest farmhouse and added to the house as they added to their family – six kids in all. Although my grandfather passed away 15 years ago, there are still parts of him throughout that space – inside and out. In the front yard, two huge trees stand at attention, and when you look up between them, you can see that the branchesmy granddaddy twisted so that the two trees are intertwined from years of growing together. In the yard beneath each of these trees stands a large rock, hand picked by my grandfather, that many children (myself included) have used for jumping, sitting, and general perching.

You can see where Granddaddy twisted the tree branches together.

In that house, Granny still holds court. She is in charge, whether she is feeling up to doing the work or not. She has worked all her life, providing for her family. She can whip up a meal in minutes, and she always remembers your favorite food. She is quick to give advice and encouragement, and the house remains largely the same as it was in my childhood. I love going there because it takes me back to a simpler time when I had one job there – to be spoiled by grandparents.

Thankfully when I imagine a place in this world that gives me comfort, I am reminded how many places give me that feeling – I feel it when I scoop one of my boys into my lap, I feel it any time I can sit and stare into a moving body of water, and I feel it every time I get to hold my husband’s hand. I feel it anytime I can curl up with a good book and some coffee. And I feel it every time the breeze hits my face on that front porch swing.

Notice the tiny caterpillar crawling up his arm
Notice the tiny caterpillar crawling up his arm.

On our recent visit, my boys played with bugs on the porch, stared at cows, ran in the yard, sang silly songs at the top of their lungs, and took a ride on that tried and true swing. I was blown away in that moment, knowing that my special place is also special to them. And my special place was special to other people before I was ever around.

I think often about the legacy that my grandparents built – the farm, the house, the home, the family, and the memories. It is mind-blowing to realize that I am in the process of building a legacy for my own family. I am creating tradition every day, every holiday, and every year. I hope that my boys will be able to look back on their childhoods as I do from that porch swing. They will get warm feelings about swimming in my parents’ bathtub, calling it their swimming pool; they will smile to remember the playhouse in our backyard that was built by the strong hands of both of their grandfathers and their daddy; they will remember fondly their uncle who played airplane with them over and over and the aunt who always brought the coolest books to read.

I don’t think my kids need more things to feel safe, valued and comfortable. They need to feel things, and the good thing about feelings is that they are free. I am not stressing over giving my children a perfect childhood by bombarding them with activities, vacations, and toys. My job is to make them feel safe, valued, and comfortable. I think the best memories we can give them come from investing time and energy – mainly because my best memories come from an old front porch swing.