Grandma's Front Porch
No matter where I played in the neighborhood, I could always see my folks on the porch, and I could usually hear that reassuring squeak, squeak, squeak.
I have many memories of my grandparent’s front porch. It was the central gathering Mecca all spring and summer for the Jim Williams family.
Up until I graduated from high school, I spent all my summers at the paternal grandparents in London, KY. This visit was always the highlight of my year. I loved my grandparents dearly and my two unmarried aunties--Edie and Ruthie--who also spent their summers there. Since I was an only child and only grandchild, you might have an inkling of the princess life I led each summer. But, I digress.
In those days television and air conditioning were luxury items. We didn't possess them. but neither did anyone else in town that I know of. So, our front porch became the coolest place to be. Our porch was adorned with brown wicker furniture that consisted of a three-person swing, a large chair, and a rocking chair…that was Grandpa’s, of course. All the furniture had soft green-hued flowery cushions that had to be taken out and put up every day. That was my job...when I wanted it. Otherwise, someone else did it.
Once I became too big for naps, I would lay in the swing on my stomach with one leg dragging off the better with which to push myself. I usually fell asleep. When I lay in bed at night now, I can still hear that squeak, squeak, squeak—such a lulling sound. Anyone who might mention I had taken a nap would be told right away by my Grandma, "She was just taking a little swing."
All daily events were discussed and planned on that white wooden porch. When I was present, my seat was always in the middle of the swing. Grandma sat on one side and Aunt Edie on the other, in case I needed my head rubbed or my back scratched. The topic of discussion was what the next meal would be. But, after the sun went down many wonderful family stories were recounted there…mostly true ones except when they ran out and I insisted they make up new ones. Lots of time we played games. My favorite one was “I’m-Thinking-of-Something-that-Begins-with a ___.” The object was to discover what that person was thinking of by the first letter clue given. One of my favorite was M. I could use all sorts of words—mailbox, momma, me, marshmallows, and mosquito to name a few. And, if someone guessed the object I had in mind too quickly, I could always switch to another! Everyone on the porch had to play, even Grandpa.
Speaking of mosquitoes, they were quite plentiful and our sworn enemy! But, we were well oiled with Skeeter Scoot! You may not recognize that name, but it was oil of citronella, and I dearly loved the smell of it. Even when I was off playing, I would come home for a hit of Skeeter Scoot. Grandma never let me forget the summer I wore it everywhere I went saying it was my perfume.
The front porch and its swing was my security blanket. No matter where I played in the neighborhood, I could always see my folks on the porch, and I could usually hear that reassuring squeak, squeak, squeak. From the Hillyer’s front yard to the Bruner’s porch, or even across the street at the magnificent Begley mansion, a multitude of children played and I felt safe and well-loved with just a glance.
My grandma had two pine-carved flower planters to the left of Grandpa’s rocker. She grew beautiful petunias in them and I loved watching her weed and water them. They smelled so wonderful. Grandma explained to me that the weeds would get in the planters and that was why she pulled them out and threw them into the yard.
One night when I was five, I got bored with all the grown-up talk and decided to help weed the petunias. Never mind that I had no idea what a weed looked like. It didn’t matter; it was dark anyway. I got right down to work.
Grandpa discovered my folly first. “Sophie!” He grabbed my arm and pulled me away. “She’s pulling up all your petunias.” Then, he softly swatted me twice. I began to cry like a woman who's just lost all her children. Grandma and the aunties came running.\.
“Jim, how could you swat that precious little thing? She thought she was helping!” My aunties tsk-tsked him as well. That was the only time I ever heard Grandma raise her voice to Grandpa. I think he was in the doghouse for about a week. And, as family stories have a way of doing, this one got told over and over when the family was together throughout the years to come.
Ah, what memories I cherish from the old front porch. I miss it so much and all of my wonderful family that gathered there each day. I envision them all in Heaven now just a swinging and a telling their stories, and waiting on me to get there and take my place in the middle of the old front porch swing.