It was at the dead end that a house stood empty with a sign stuck on the front hill. It said it was for sale. How could I purchase just the memories that hover around that place? I didn’t want the house necessarily. I wanted the things that held me suspended in peace above the malformed opinions of adulthood. Ignorance was bliss and that bliss faded into the backdrop of life away from home. That was a stance I took in front of the house that wasn’t my home any longer. I, a driveling reminiscent, stood hoping for a sensory flashback to red ball jets and ham burg gravy.
My daughters climbed the stairs with me and we became momentary voyeurs of a place where I learned to walk, ride, and drive. We cased it like future burglars. We peered over the window sills. We walked its perimeter. I started pouring out stories like a coffee pot.
I told them how I used to ride and ride my stingray around the house until the roots of the maple trees rose like varicose veins. The path would allow a few hardy dandelions to hang in there. But now there was actually green grass circling this “used to be” home. How my mother would have liked to have something to mow back then.
I got on a knee to peer under the wooden overlay of the cement stoop in front. It was under there, crumbling still. Instead of five smooth stones there were five rough steps with bookend brick walls. Those walls held, for a while, the stories of our lives.
In the spring ten children would fall out of our winter barracks and sit at ease on those steps. It was the place to hang out and watch the world go by…even on a dead end avenue. By the way, it was never dead.
My sister Mary would sit on the wall almost any time of the day and wander around chords on her guitar. I remember her playing the intro to the Beatle’s Blackbird. Now I hear my son playing it and his fingers pick and point me back to front porch days…
Back when it was a safe zone for tag or home base for hide and seek. Back when my mom would blow the police whistle from that porch to call us home for dinner or baths or a head count. Back when in early August it was an excellent place to watch lightning bugs and listen to the cicadas sing. Back when neighborhood kids would show up for senseless banter and storytelling from its podium. Back when cigarette butts were flicked into the sidewalk cracks. Back when it served as a barricade for water balloon and squirt gun fire and pitches of the little pearly berries from the shrubs out back. Back when it was the backdrop for graduation pictures. Back when tears of sadness, frustration, anger, happiness had freckled its grainy mortar. Back where hellos and goodbyes were handed out.
It reminds me of my Mom. Actually, it was for her I wrote these words down. That porch was like the house’s lap. We could crawl up on it and relax and be ourselves. There was a certain comfort of simply sitting there. Sit and be. Let the wind blow our hair back like she did when she checked for fevers. First the back of her hand against our cheek, then a cool palm on our forehead, then the brushing back of our hair and her pursed lips just above our eyebrows.
Then to climb up on her lap…the best easy chair ever there was. It would support our weighty little bodies. We would sit and wait for her strength to be transferred to us. A short visit there would lend us security. Now I know that her strength and security was often waning. Only God and she knew how many times her cup was empty and yet a little drop of love managed to fall on us… and that was all we needed.
Now that porch is laminated in painted wood, make-up that covers its inner beauty and foundational strength. I feel like I need to go back in cover of darkness and pry up the cover up. Then I could sit on the pitted remembrance of who I was becoming. I would imagine all my siblings stuffed on that porch sharing the steps and the one lap we all had in common.