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Red porch swing

There’s just something about an old porch swing.

My mother has always been about the simple things in life. She has always had a passion for things that many people take for granted, toss away or see as being past its prime. She is the one who will put new fabric on that old couch to make it new again. She will paint that old dresser to make it match the new grandchild’s nursery. She learned it from her mother, who learned it from a hard childhood in the Depression: Everything that is old really can be made new again.

And so it was with the old porch swing, salvaged from an estate sale. It had many layers of peeling paint, a busted arm, and rusty chains. But she had to have it, and for ten bucks it was hers. She parked it in the front yard, fixed the arm and scraped off every bit of paint. She painted it a brick red to match the shutters, found relatively new chains in the backyard shed, and enlisted my brother to install it on the wide front porch.

She smiled from ear to ear as we sat down to swing that very first time.

A gathering place

As the years went by, that porch swing became a gathering place. That’s where we sat to shell peas and crack beans from the garden, which would then go into the sparkling clear glass jars. It’s where we read books until the creeping twilight made it too difficult to see the words. It’s where we called back to whippoorwills, whispered secrets to friends and plotted our futures.

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When I was thirteen, I curled up on the porch swing with my mother and cried over my first broken heart. His name was Andrew, and he liked Kimberly, not me. My mother patted my back and reminded me that in a week, this would be over.

She was wrong. I was over him in two days.

A place to grow up

When I was fourteen, my beautiful cat passed away. I again went to the place that soothed me more than any other, and I wrote about her in my journal while rocking on the front porch swing. I used up twenty pages before the sun went down.

When I was sixteen, I had my first true argument with a boyfriend there on the front porch swing, and that’s where I broke up with him two weeks later.

At seventeen, my mother was sitting on the front porch swing waiting for me to get home on the night I was late for curfew. I could sense her fury before I stepped out of the car, and I was grounded for two weeks.

At eighteen, I was on the porch swing when my mother opened a letter at the mailbox, and then came running up the driveway, waving the white paper over her head and hollering with joy. I met her at the steps, where she thrust the paper into my hands with a huge grin on her face.

It was my college acceptance letter — to the one place I wanted to go.

At twenty, I was back on the swing, holding hands with the man who would become my husband, rocking while my mother asked a barrage of questions. She wanted to make sure he was good for me.

Still a haven

A few years after that, I watched as my son carefully climbed onto the swing, uncertain of how to hold it steady while his little legs fought to get him up into the seat — but he did it. He sat there with a mischievous grin.

The porch swing has been painted half a dozen times since then. The chains have been replaced at least twice. The porch boards underneath the swing are worn to smoothness from so many years of feet rocking back and forth. It has been a haven for my kids, my siblings, and their kids — well over a dozen of us now, and still growing. Mom still sits there most nights, and watches the sun go down.

It’s still a haven, but more important than that is the person who made it that way. Anytime I see a porch swing, I think of my mother.

***

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.