Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tiny Lights and a Flashback…

           Last night I was sitting on our patio in the dark just listening to the night sounds when suddenly tiny flashes of light caught my eye. The tiny lights flashed here and there like tiny fairy lights against the wooded background.  It dawned on me that I was seeing fireflies darting here and there.  I found myself transported back to another time when I was a child. I remembered sitting on the back porch in the middle of summer enjoying the evening’s cool air after a long, hot summer day.  

          It brought back some of the good memories of my childhood, and suddenly I really missed that big old-fashioned back porch.  Most everyone I knew, when I was growing up, either had a big front porch or a big back porch, and ours was a big back porch.  That old porch was a vital part of our lives.

        There was a swing, a couple of chairs, a small table and a place to leave muddy shoes and boots.  In one corner was a place where Momma stored her broom and dustpan.  It was a great place to play on warm rainy days and a place to enjoy the fresh evening summer air.

        My father had a lumber business and I can remember that when the mid-summer thunder showers would hit in the middle of the afternoons, my father and his workers would take a break to sit and have a cool drink on the back porch.  I loved to sit and listen to the tall tales they would tell about things they did when they were young. 

      The swing was a great place to play, but it had many other practical uses.  My mother and I would sit in the swing and break green beans or shell peas for canning or for the evening meal.   The porch was also where cream was churned into butter for the family or black walnuts were cracked and the nutmeats removed for baking cookies and cakes.  Maybe most important of all, it gave Momma a break from the hot kitchen where the wood stove was used to cook three meals a day.

      At the corner of the house was an unusually big oak shade tree that made it more a comfortable place in the summer. In the evening, the porch was a gathering place for the family and neighbors. They would visit or, perhaps, get out their guitars, fiddles, banjos and harmonicas and sing the old songs.  Sometimes, my father would bring out the old wind-up record player and we would listen to music recorded on large plastic records.  They sounded scratchy and the voices didn’t sound like real people singing most of the time, but more like cartoon characters.  The back porch was always where the family gathered on Sunday after church and a big Sunday dinner, usually fried chicken.

      In the wintertime the porch was a place to leave our snow packed boots and a place to brush off our clothes before entering the house.  It was also a place where we would make homemade ice cream out of fresh fallen snow. 

      Eventually, my father screened in the back porch. Back then if a porch was enclosed, it was not a porch anymore, it was a room.  Once the back porch was screened in it took on a variety of other uses. 

       There was a small table about 18 inches deep and 18 inches across. There was a wash basin resting on it and a mirror hanging from the wall above it. There was also a straight razor, a razor strap for sharpening it and a shaving mug with a shaving brush in it.  The table also had a wash basin for hands with a towel on the wall.  Beside the wash basin sat a big cedar bucket with a large dipper.  There you could get cool drinks, except in the winter, when the water in it would freeze. 

       The back porch is one of my fondest memories and I often wish that the house I live in today had one, but it wouldn’t be the same because too many other things have changed as well.  It is a world that has gone, but it still lives on in our memory room.

 We have lost a lot since house builders quit putting porches on new houses. The families have also lost a lot, and what they have lost is much more than that old back porch.  However, the people who are from my generation have the memories to savor and to share.  Maybe you can share some of yours here.

A very early picture of my parents.
The following is an excerpt of the poem "Pulse Points" that is in my book, Pulse Points of a Woman’s World.

As the pulse points are caressed
     by life’s lusty fragrant perfumes,
Treasures entwine the heart
    in the twilight of the memory room,
Where memories are imprisoned
    by the heart on an intricate chain,
Each link clasping a captive dream
    to be evoked to living vividness again.

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