Porch Swing Stories
A collection of short stories capturing life’s bonding moments while creating enduring memories and relationships, all of which take place at home with the gentle sway of the porch swing.
Grandpa was a funny, patient, simple, and kind man. He didn’t make much money but was rich with wisdom, skill, and love for his family. He had many imaginative and clever expressions, like, “Just because you’re poor, you don’t have to be dirty,” or, “The restaurant bathroom mirrors the kitchen.” Having grown up on the farm, it was no wonder that his idea of a relaxing vacation was going back to the vast land and nature of the country, where brown cows produced chocolate milk, brown and white cows made milk chocolate, black cows were coffee cows, and black and white cows gave us coffee with cream.
My grandpa was a skilled woodworker. He indeed created everlasting keepsakes everywhere he went, but especially from his workshop in the basement. Unlike some basements, where eerie energy is felt because of old junk that got lost over the years, I loved going to the basement of my grandparent’s home. Grandpa’s workshop was well-lit and meticulous. The peg-boarded walls were sectioned in neat rows of bits, chisels, planes, and small containers filled with screws, nuts, sandpaper, and more. The counter was clutter-free and home to the different types of saws and larger equipment he used for his projects, but what I call masterpieces. He believed in cleaning up every day after working on a project. A neat workspace was part of creating the perfection of his creations.
His woodworking skill shined through when watching him at his art at home with his tools in his basement workshop, but more so without his tools as a guest in our garage. Grandpa made something for us every time he came to visit. Whatever he made was of the best quality and lasted for generations. Grandpa made simple things like cutting boards in the form of a pig to big stuff like our playset that took the shape of a climbable tent equipped with monkey bars on the side. I remember he made our bunk beds, and I asked for them to be painted purple. As he showed me how to sand the wood, he pointed out the beauty of the grain and knots of the wood and how that was highlighted once the stain was applied. When he was done, the wood was so smooth and shiny that I loved it much better than any colored paint.
I fondly remember the porch swing he made for my parents when they bought our house. Like the bunk bed, it was stained and glossy, highlighting the wood’s grain and knots, which he admired the most. It was big enough for three grownups, but most of us kids would sit on it while playing make-believe, I-spy, or listening to stories – both told and read. While I can’t remember him making it, I remember the times we spent on it, swinging and letting our imaginations take us to different worlds. I would play hairdresser and braid the little, yet long, patch of hair he had remaining at the top of his head to cover as much as possible of his otherwise balding head. We would see how high we could swing as I would tell him of my plans to become a pilot to soar the skies. He would gently sway us, kids, as he spoke to calm us and get us to apologize after fighting with each other. He never assigned blame. After all, “it takes two to fight.” Our favorite make-believe game would be to pretend that the swing was a wagon and we were waggoneers headed to the wild-wild West. We would set up all our horse figurines in front of the swing, and my grandfather was often the coachman. At the same time, my brothers were the good or bad guys (depending on each of their moods) who would rob and protect us. My sister and I would be in the back of the wagon, making food for everyone and dressing up in fancy clothes and jewelry. Reflecting back, I believe my grandfather had just as much fun playing with us as we did with him. He never stopped to go inside to be with the other adults in our family. Those are among my favorite childhood memories of feeling safe, loved, and carefree.
Today, I have the same swing, sway, and play with my child, just like my grandfather did with my siblings. Our nightly routine often ends on that swing with a story, either told or read, and watching the sky turn orange and pink before the sun goes to sleep. As my grandfather told me, I tell my son, “The ovens in the heavens are on, and the angels are baking.” But, now that Grandpa is an Angel, I like to think that the orange and pink in the sky are also the lights of his heavenly workshop, where he’s making us a swing in the sky, ready for us whenever we get there.