Friday, September 28, 2007

Porch swing: A staple in Southern life

Since moving here, I have noticed that there is one similarity to almost every house – a front porch swing. I have yet to hang my own swing, but it is first on my list when “settling in.”

A porch swing is a Southern staple in most every household, and has been the center of life in most families – a Sunday afternoon gather place, a retreat after a long day, a familiar locale for entertaining a sweetheart. Like the kitchen table, the porch swing is central in most Southerner’s memories.

I can’t remember my grandparents without their swing. My Daddy had given them the swing as a gift, and nothing made my grandfather happier that sitting in the swing humming an old hymn, twiddling his thumbs (he literally did). As a child, I would run barefoot across the pasture to my grandparents’ house for an afternoon on the porch.

My grandmother and my Aunt Pete would be shelling peas and colorfully describing how Miss Martha down the road had treated my grandmother in the Piggly Wiggly. My grandfather would be swaying so slightly on the swing humming his hymn not paying them a bit of attention.

I can still feel the pinch of the cracked paint on the back of my bare legs as I sat between my grandparents, my bare feet dangling. With honeysuckle in the air and lightning bugs flickering in the golden light of dusk, nothing would be said between us, and everything was quite except for my Granddaddy’s humming.

One Easter, my sister, Deana, along with two cousins was swinging – too high, according to my grandmother who insisted they slow down. Of course, they ignored her, and the swing broke throwing them into the flower beds.

After learning that no one was injured, my grandmother gave them a good chewing for squashing her azaleas and breaking her prized peony. She let them know real quick that she had told them to slow down and they refused – proving once again that she was always right, and her word should be taken as gospel.

One Christmas, my Aunt Bapie with her hunting vest orange hair (the dye was so toxic, her scalp was also dyed) was swinging easy on the porch, and one side broke bringing the swing down hard – almost squashing a stray dog that had wondered up. You could hear her screeching for her smelling salts for miles.

I remember standing on the porch swing to get away from bottle rockets and firecrackers on Christmas Eve. My cousins Lisa and Dennis would always have fights with them. I wasn’t really scared of them until they put a whole pack of firecrackers down Granddaddy’s pants. I had never seen him run so fast! For a seventy-five year man, he was amazing at hurdles.

When my grandparents passed away, I immediately thought of that swing. Selfishly and childishly, I wanted to make sure no other family make memories in our swing. “You need to go down there and get our swing,” I insisted to my Daddy, but as much as I wanted to keep my memories close to me, he was unwilling to separate his from the house he grew up in.

With my own front porch and my own front porch swing, I plan to make more memories, but I will always cherish a childhood spent soaring to the tune of “I Love to Tell the Story” between my grandparents.


Dana said...

What great writing, memories and sentiment!

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