Sunday, August 14, 2011

Swinging on the Memory Catcher

I don't think there's ever been a time in my life when I haven't had a porch swing or not dreamed of having one.  In Wisconsin, they sit empty for much of the year but when it's the season, ours earns its keep.

When I moved to Wisconsin, I had my first real porch.  It was my first home as a single mom with my three darling little bambinos and I wanted a swing in the worst way.  My dad, who has been my hero for my entire life, obliged.  He packed up his tools with all of his supplies and headed north for the weekend with my mom and my Uncle Doyle.  The front yard was soon a construction zone and the kids were right in the middle of it.  Before they left, the swing was hung and tested and the joy began.  I don't think it ever got painted while it lived on that porch but it sure was used.

It was a place where we could watch the world walk by or where I could sit and watch the kids sell lemonade or lettuce or whatever their great entrepreneurial idea was for the weekend. It was my morning coffee shop and my evening hideaway after the kids were finally tucked in to bed.  It was my head clearing place.  The kids and I shared laughter as well as sharing stories of the day while swinging back and forth.  They knew if I said "let's go outside" in a serious tone, it meant the porch swing would be the site of a "come to Jesus" meeting.   Ty used it for escape when he wanted to get away from the girls.  In his imagination, it became transportation to someplace else.  I remember walking out on to the porch one time and he quickly told me to get back inside or I would drown.  At that moment, the swing was his ship and he knew his mom couldn't swim.  Or perhaps he just wanted me to be out of his business, after all, I was a girl too - the poor guy was the odd man out.   I loved the porch swing regardless of how it was being used but my favorite time was when I shared it with someone I loved.  There's something calming about swinging and when you do it together, it creates a quieting rhythm between two people that seems to pull you together.

When we moved from that house, the porch swing was the last thing that needed to be loaded.  I was exhausted at the end of the move and that swing might as well have been an 500 pound gorilla because I just couldn't find the energy to take it down and load it.  I rationalized . . . the new house didn't have a place for it to hang and we had certainly gotten our use out of it.  In very poor judgment, I decided to leave it behind.  Big mistake!  You know how kids never remind you of the wonderful things you've done for them but if you make a mistake, it is never forgotten?  Practically every time we sat together on our new porch, the jabs would start.  "Didn't we used to have a porch swing?  Papaw worked for months on that porch swing.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could swing on our porch swing?  Oh yeah, MOM left it behind."

1986:  My dad building the porch swing while Ashli and Ty look on.  

Years later on one weekend morning during the summer, I got up before everyone else and went to the kitchen to make coffee.  As I was sitting at the kitchen table, counting the seconds until I could pour the coffee into my veins, I looked out the window and saw our porch swing sitting in the back yard.  Really?  As the family started to fill the kitchen one by one, no one seemed to have any idea of how the swing miraculously appeared.  The stories started . . ."Wow, that sure looks like our old porch swing mom.  Maybe the family over on Prospect started feeling guilty and dropped it off for us" or "Must have magically unhooked itself, sprouted swing wings and flown here - it missed us."  The true story didn't come out for some time.  Our daughter was out one night with some friends, complaining about the porch swing episode and no doubt using it as a perfect opportunity to roast her mother.  A light bulb went off in someones brain . . . let's go rescue it!  (Notice how I have very artfully used the word rescue rather than steal!)  I have to admit that I drove by the old house several times, saw it sitting there empty and was tempted to "rescue" it myself but of course I never had the nerve or a truck.  This is one of those moments as a mom when you are bound as a mother to chastise your kids for doing something wrong but you are secretly are thinking, "My kids rock!"  I quickly came to the realization that my kids had some wisdom about the porch swing that I had chosen to ignore.  It was more than a porch swing.  It was a memory catcher that had been handcrafted by my dad and my uncle and there wasn't a porch swing on the market that could have replaced it.  Sometimes kids have wisdom beyond their years.

The porch swing now hangs on the screened in porch of our new house.  It finally got the coat of paint that it deserved and it has comfy pillows that invite you to prop yourself up and relax.  It's still a place to talk, read, reflect and relax.  It's become a favorite place for our grandkids now.  A few summers ago, Logan and Lindsey were in a pirate phase and it became a pirate ship for the entire summer.  I never knew when I would come out and see Captain Jack standing on it, whipping his sword around while he tried to save Elizabeth from the sharks of the nasty waters below.

I'm in awe that such a simple thing has transcended time and three generations.  It's all the things it used to be.  I can swing on it and feel my heart rate drop down to the relax zone. And if I close my eyes and listen to the squeak of the back and forth motion, I can be immediately transported to Prospect Avenue where my kids are laughing and giggling and sometimes arguing.  With every swing back and forth, it's become a place to count the blessings of the years.  I can't sit in it without remembering the hands that made it . . . made with tender loving care by my dad and my precious uncle and rescued by the hands of an impulsive but determined teenage girl.  I guess that's what an heirloom is - something with magical memory catching super powers that can cause your heart to skip a beat.

Logan and BopBop reading this summer

Time for a morning snuggle Nonna.

Life doesn't get much better than a porch swing, pillows, and a summer morning.

The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch swing with, never say a word, 
then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation that you ever had. ~Unknown


  1. Love porch swings and honestly something I have always dreamed of having... it is one of my favorite spots in your home. Now if only the morning porch had one too! ;)

  2. So which one of your wonderful children instigated this "rescue" I wonder?? I know Ty used to have a truck...

  3. You're in the wrong profession...You need to be a writer!!