Why Bother To Remember The Front Porch Swing?
Growing up in the Midwest in the 1960s, if a house had a front porch, it most likely also had a front porch swing. But unlike swings on a swing set, the front porch swing had a bench seat made to hold two or three people at a time and was slowly pushed back and forth with one’s feet. The chains that suspended the wooden swing from the porch ceiling creaked in rhythm to the lazy rocking motion. The front porch swing is where I first awakened to the language of my heart, a language felt, more than spoken.
A Place of Comfort
The first house I lived in as a little girl had a front porch along with a wooden swing suspended from the porch rafters. After dinner and as seasonal weather permitted, my dad went outside and sat on that swing to smoke his evening cigarette, and I’d follow him. Smoking his Salem was as much a ritual for him as it was for me to climb onto his lap and watch the string of smoke rings he blew for me. Even when summer thunderstorms gathered over us, we’d stay put on that porch swing, his arms encircling me to keep me warm as much as to calm my fears from the lightning and the booms of rolling thunder. To the rest of the family that porch swing may have appeared to be a common and ordinary piece of outdoor furniture, but to me, it was the place where I could hear my dad’s heart beat and he could hear mine.
Then as a young teen, and after my dad died, my mother moved us to a house without a front porch and without a front porch swing. But, I’d ride my bike to my grandmother’s house where she’d serve me a cold bottle of root beer and invite me to sit a spell with her on her front porch swing. I missed the closeness I’d once had with my dad, but Grandma knew how to bend her ear toward mine and listen to the woes known only by a grieving teenage granddaughter. Sitting next to her on that front porch swing was solace for my heart. The world that had once felt secure and certain had turned up-side-down, but Grandma’s presence, the slow, steady motion of the swing and the familiar creaking sounds of the supporting links in the chain, calmed the turmoil that raged inside of me. Though Grandma did not have any answers, she had the time to sit. She had the time to listen to my heart.
Later, when I left home and married, the house my husband built for us had a front porch, and eventually, a porch swing. Our swing became the place where we sat on warm summer evenings and contemplated the future of our marriage and our family. Already familiar with sharing the language of my heart on a porch swing, I now listened to that of my husband’s.
Why bother remembering the front porch swing? It is worth it to recall the time, the place and the people who first stirred in us an awareness of the language of the heart so that we can awaken others to that same language.