Decades ago, when my husband's grandfather was still living on earth, we would spend delightful hours with him on his front porch swing. He was a gracious host and brilliant conversationalist and we would talk with him about everything from the Supreme Court to the latest great-grandchild. But sometimes, when there was a lull in the conversation, we would just swing back and forth on that wide, hand-made, oak swing. Occasionally a neighbor would yell “Hi Charlie” to him. But he would barely leave his reverie. There was a calm confidence of being lord of the porch.
The fragrance from his small, but tidy rose garden in the side yard would sneak up onto the porch now and then, and I would find myself actually relaxing deep inside. Nothing was rushed, or even expected of me. Sitting together with him was agenda enough.
After he passed away, the house was sold, and I think turned into a beauty salon. The porch swing was taken down. Looking back on those sweet times, I wonder where those kinds of moments are in my life today.
There are several things that porch swing provided that are so basic.
First, it was outside. Today, I rarely go outside without some chore to do. Just sitting outside enjoying the breeze, the fragrance and sounds. Time on the porch swing used to feel like an internal reboot.
Another aspect was there was no radio or television on the porch, no cell phones back then, and if the house phone rang inside, he’d wave and say “If it’s important, they’ll call back.” The whole purpose of being on the swing was being there together.
Sadly, our interaction today is usually interrupted by something electronic. There was a deep connection in those restful summer visits with one of the wisest men I had ever met. I wonder if I would have ever gotten to know him as well, if with one ear I was always listening for an email notification or a Facebook update?
Today I live in a beautiful rural neighborhood, with an acre lot separating the houses on our country road. But my contact with our neighbors is sadly minimal. We wave from our cars as we drive in and out of our respective driveways. It usually takes a major storm, power outage or some local catastrophe to gather us mid-street to talk about it all.
But when Grandpa’s neighbors saw him on the porch swing they would come up and chat for a bit. He seemed glad to see everyone, and enjoyed being in on the latest town news. He didn’t depend on the local newspaper for news. That’s what neighbors were for. I miss that kind of connectedness to the people with whom I share my street address. But, like we all say nowadays, “I’m so busy.”
For a simple piece of furniture, that porch swing did well in offering Grandpa and others a bit of fresh air, relaxation and connection. These three commodities are still available, still free, but for most of us, under used. I might go online tonight and see if there are any porch swings on Craig’s List.