This is a peaceful scene, isn’t it? My eyes are always drawn to a porch swing and, if possible, I allow myself a few minutes to sit and swing. Lazily swinging back and forth always brings back a treasured memory for me….
One of my grandmother’s older sisters lived across Highway 9 from my grandparents. Every afternoon, at the appropriate time, my grandmother would walk me across the road for a visit with Aunt Tient (pronounced like pint, only with a “t”). She and her husband, Uncle Hayden, doted on me just as they had doted on my mother. They were childless with a lot of love to spare.
When my mother was growing up Aunt Tient and Uncle Hayden lived in Greenwood. My mother spent many hours with them with each visit being announced in the Webster County Times newspaper according to the custom of the day. Uncle Hayden was a night police man, so he slept during the day. Mama described Aunt Tient “tiptoeing” around during the day so he could sleep. She was also one of the few women at that time who knew how to drive; I suspect that Uncle Hayden had taught her so she would be able to drive herself as needed. In turn she taught my mother to drive and to drive very well! Uncle Hayden loved my mother dearly, but I was always scared of him. He had scratchy whiskers and smelled unpleasantly of chewing tobacco, plus his policeman-like demeanor made him a little gruff. He worked odd jobs as a painter and was usually gone while I visited. When he was there he watched television with the volume turned way up as he was hard-of-hearing. Sometime prior to my arrival they had bought and moved into their converted duplex conveniently across the highway.
My days followed a continual pattern. Pick and work in the garden in the morning, hang wash on the line, and begin preparations for the mid-day meal (dinner to us). After the lunch dishes were washed and put away it was rest time. My grandmother had been up since very early, cooked 2 meals and worked steadily in the rising heat. After resting we would turn to working on processing vegetables from the morning garden pick. I would wait impatiently for the appointed time to call Aunt Tient to arrange my visit and then off I went.
The first order of business after my grandmother left was to have a cold Coca-Cola. A daily Coca-Cola was forbidden in my world; my mother thought that one a week was all that a person should have. Truth be known I suspect that she drank one every day during her visits to Aunt Tient’s! Sometimes we would be a little decadent and add a scoop of the very best ice cream in the world and have a Coke float. As we sipped our drinks she would sometimes tell me stories like the one about the day that the banks closed and people had no money. She and her husband had $14 in cash, so they were okay until the banks re-opened. Only many years later would I understand. I remember these times at her table as being serious talks.
After that enjoyable repast we would sometimes gather eggs from her hens, which I dearly loved helping with. Aunt Tient was terrified of snakes and always made a big issue of watching for them while we gathered the beautiful brown eggs into a basket. To this day I pay extra for brown eggs at the grocery store just to honor her hen house.
We might also finish up a little cooking project from earlier in the day. Living in a duplex afforded her the luxury of a cooking kitchen on one side of the house and a cooler kitchen in which to serve and eat a meal. Jelly and jam was her speciality and I remember watching her pull the little glass jars out of the boiling water. I’m sure that like my grandmother she was also canning and freezing vegetables from her garden to be used during the coming winter months. The kitchen was very old and very hot, so I was always glad when she finished.
Then it was time to head out to the cool side porch and swing in the porch swing. It was painted a dark green and there was always a cool breeze to be enjoyed. While we swang back and forth she would delight me with funny stories from her and my grandmother’s youth. She was quite a story teller and made me laugh and giggle with each tale; sometimes I would beg her to tell a particular story that I loved and she always complied. Like my grandmother she also had boxes of pictures that she would entertain me with. As she identified each picture she always had a story to go with it, too. Those hours in that porch swing left a lasting impression on me of good times enjoyed with family and the value of a porch swing. She also had a checkers set and delighted in telling me to “king” her!
Several times she produced a box similar in size to a blanket box and a Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog. She would help me cut out pictures and attach them to the box. I don’t remember if we used tape or glue, but that box was turned into a beautiful home or so I thought. I suspect that both of us were very silly in our decorating.
All too quickly my grandmother would cross the road to retrieve me before beginning the evening meal (supper) preparation. She would usually chat for a few minutes with her sister before we left. I was always reluctant to leave, but knew that the next day would mean another visit with Aunt Tient in the porch swing.
Memories well created last a life time.