By John Clise
I came across these two chairs frozen seemingly in time and frost in the front yard of an an abandoned house out in the country. If I’d had a truck, I would have taken them. As it were, I was in a 2004 Ford Taurus.
We had glider seats like these on the front porch of my great grandmother’s home when I was growing up back in the 1970s. From pictures I have seen of the house they had been there since the ’40s or ’50s.
I remember sitting on the porch with family at lunch, and in the evening after all the work was done, and everyone was relaxing a bit enjoying some cool ice tea. I’d listen to the adults talking about whatever they’d done that day, and they’d reminisce about their childhoods there on the farm.
When they were kids back in the 1920s and 1930s, it was an actual working farm. By the time I got there it was more of a hobby farm looking back. We had cows, sheep, chickens, and a horse. They were more pets I think. I can’t remember any of the animals going off to be sold or butchered. We did have plenty of eggs, though.
My great grandmother was in her mid 90s at that point, so she had a very good memory of the things that happened there before her children were born. Some things had been changed over the years, and I’m not sure she was fully happy about those changes.
The adults talked about indoor plumbing being added in the 1940s. That facilitated a small bathroom be added to the furthest corner of the home. Until then, the outhouse was the choice at hand. Bathing, of course, was done in a wash tub.
My great Uncle Richard and my great Uncle Bob talked about returning from their military service in WWII to find an indoor bathroom. Though they were both on their way to living somewhere else as adults they thought it was good their mom had the convenience.
My sister and I sat in front of the glider playing with our kittens Twinkles and Binkles. They were cute little kitties. They adapted to farm life quite well learning that an open fence post gave them the best vantage point against all predators real and mostly imagined.
Once I convinced my mom and my great Aunt Libby to let nine year old John sleep in the glider overnight. Oddly, I remember falling asleep in what I thought was the great outdoors where I might encounter bears, wolves, and any other wild creatures of the night… but I woke up inside in my own bed still rapped up in my outdoor blankets.
Speaking of my bed back then. It was pink iron that was much smaller than a regular sized bed. It was clearly a kid’s bed. The mattress was full of chicken down, which I think is just fancy talk for chicken feathers. The weird thing about that particular mattress is that my Uncle Richard, who was about 50 at the time I was 9 also slept on the same mattress when he was my age. I never knew that until I was an adult and the two of us became more friends in communication than a child knowing his place at the dinner table.
Grandmom, Aunt Libby, mom, and my sister and I would sit on the porch snapping beans for dinners, and for canning. Or stringing beans, rather, I guess, for canning. Aunt Libby was like lightning. I was more like limping down the road on a flat. She had more experience than I did as she pointed out to me.
I remember filling the porch, flowing in and out of the house, during my grandmom’s funeral and memorial. There were so many people. She was 96 when she passed. It was 1975, I think. She’d been a teacher in a one room school at the turn of the 20th century. There have been a lot of teachers in my family through the generations. I was on that path until I decided journalism was my path.
My sister and I hid in the overgrown forsythia along the side of the house and around the front porch to escape the people on the patio. My sister always seemed to know when I was getting overwhelmed and would try to help me get calmed down.
The snow would blow in and we’d sweep it back out. We got about of foot or so of snow, and it was like a snow wall right at the edge of the patio. I always thought that was pretty cool.
I remember the last time I sat on the porch in the same glider that had been there for something like 65 years. A lifetime of memories came flooding back. I knew I would never sit on that porch again. I just let it all soak into my memories.
As I sat there saying good-bye to a big part of my childhood and life, a Christmas memory popped into my head. All of the Christmas gifts from family to family were always under the tree, obviously. But because Santa couldn’t properly come down the chimney his gifts were always left on the porch where would gleefully retrieve them on Christmas morning. And, of course, we would always leave his milk and cookies on a circular green and white metal side table on the porch. After I got older, I had my suspicions hat my Uncle Bob (He was actually my second cousin, but we all called him Uncle Bob not to be confused with my great Uncle Bob) had come from his home across the way to consume Santa’s reward. That notion still makes me smile.
Sometimes, I just shut my eyes and drift back there for a while remembering all the things we did there. The family, friends, pets, and activities. It’s good for my heart and soul.