Front Porch Memories

From the front porch of our farm house on Franklin Road the world begins at the edge of the sidewalk, grass rippling over an acre to the road, lapping at the curved concrete stairs leading to the deep porch, where one white rocker and one white wicker chair wait, the seats sagging a bit, for us to stumble out early on a Saturday morning…

From the front porch of our farm house on Franklin Road the world begins at the edge of the sidewalk, grass rippling over an acre to the road, lapping at the curved concrete stairs leading to the deep porch, where one white rocker and one white wicker chair wait, the seats sagging a bit, for us to stumble out early on a Saturday morning.

We moved to this house, which has rested on some 27 acres for over 45 years, in earlier this year from our cottage home just off S.

Cumberland in Lebanon. It was quite a move – my mother, Darline Martin Wiley, my son Draper, and our dogs Goose and Blair are now rambling about in a house much larger than what we are accustomed to, roaming the yard and cultivating a garden and kneeling in the sunshine, plucking tomatoes from thick ropy green vines and ticks from the dogs. Such is country life.   

For my son it has been an adjustment – the length of grass, the field beyond our whitewashed fence, the barn squatting like an island in a sea of hay. Flowers and a “kazeebow” and pear trees. Random pink blossoms, wide enough to lower his face into, opening with the morning sun, warm earth against his knees as he watches my mother pluck tiny cherry tomatoes, red and precious to him as rubies to a wanton woman.

I’ve watched him on the sly as he stumbles from the tomato plants into the herb garden, trailing his hands through the rosemary bush as he passes and then lifting his hands to his face as he steps over the railroad ties penning the garden from the driveway. This is now his life, second nature, rosemary on his fingers. He comes to me, palms up, offering his small gift from the backyard to smell. He is almost four years old.

I grew up in the tiny hamlet of Alexandria after our family moved from Lebanon when I was 15 months old. My parents bought an old house at the end of a cul-de-sac, and our back yard ambled down to a wide creek where I spent many hours studying the streak of minnows, the lacy trails of waterbugs and tadpoles. I lay for hours on our side porch, a shady haven with a deep white swing, running my fingers along the old rusty chain, my thoughts occupied with books and stories, until eventually I began penning my own tales, acting them out in extravagant episodes in costume and sunshine, buttercups from the side yard entwined in my hair. My mother made sun tea in jars that sparkled in the summer sun like amber. Honeysuckle petals were my lunch, their nectar my dessert.

Now my son and I often spend our weekend mornings on our front porch, where he races along the unused sidewalk from the long drive as I scribble furiously in my black Moleskine notebook.

When I was a child there was hardly any traffic on our quiet street – I could read and play and spin webs of worlds virtually uninterrupted. On our front porch now, even on the removed Franklin Road, the new Hartmann Drive interchange provides enough constant traffic that I can’t allow him in the front yard unattended. While he knows his boundaries, I don’t feel comfortable having him outside unless I have at least one eye on him. Yet I remember, growing up, spending long hot summer hours alone, tucked away in the shady swish of backyard trees, the undertuck of that side porch, the easy breeze lifting my hair as I swung on the porch swing.

I’ll turn 31 years old in October – I’m not old by any sense of the word, and I know that. Yet I sometimes feel the corner of my mouth twist up when I hear people talk about “the good ole days,” especially here, in the gorgeous heat and green of Middle Tennessee.

But even I feel the difference of my childhood and that of my son’s although so many things are still the same: the heavy damp of Tennessee summer like hot wet cotton against our skin, the sharp sting of a mosquito bite on our calves, the smell of honeysuckle, and the absolute joy of running down porch steps, from the cool shady calm of your mother’s palms and into the bright hot sunshine of a summer morning, prickly grass against your ankles, and the scatter of butterflies and soft wisps of dandelion seeds rising, and lowering your hands into the rosemary to raise to your face and breathe in, deep, knowing it will never last and you will forget it… until next summer, when you get to have it all, all over again. 

Tomi L. Wiley is a writer and newspaper editor. She is on the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Writers Alliance and serves as its quarterly newsletter editor. Read more about her on her blog at http://twiley3ms.blogspot.com/

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