This week’s writing challenge is about a few of your favorite things. I have a few favorite things… a book, a bear, a paintbrush, an amazing pair of shoes, a family quilt, but after some thought my choice has to be my swing.
I’ve swung on a front porch swing all my life. Actually, I’m a third generation front porch swinger. My papaw grew up in the house I live in and spent countless hours swinging or rocking on the porch. My dad and his siblings did the same thing. Now, my brothers and I have spent our lives thus far swinging on the front porch.
I can remember three swings total in my lifetime (23 years), but I have no idea how many have hung on this porch over the last 80 years. I wish I did and could tell you all about them, but I don’t so you’ll have to settle for the swings of my life.
The first swing was my Papaw’s. I was 4 or 5 years old from my earliest memory. It was winter time and the porch was huge then. I walked with Papaw through the long winding house and the room that always had the door closed to get to the porch. That room was icy feeling on my feet and usually gave the shivers. We would open the big white front door and walk out on the porch. It had screens all around it… a little room all of our own. The paint was peeling and there were lots of treasures my mom called junk, but my favorite was the swing. It smelled like pennies and old pillows. Papaw would sit down on the cushion first, holding the swing steady, then let me climb up next to him. Our cushion was really just an old blanket, but that didn’t matter to me. I would snuggle up next to his chest, resting partly on his left leg and partly on the scratchy orange pillow I loved, and we would watch a little black and white TV. The screen didn’t come in all the time, but it was ours. It always seemed to be showing Andy Griffith or the news. I liked Andy Griffith best.
In the summer time, we would get a bucket of vanilla ice cream off the back porch, fill our glasses with crushed ice and orange juice, grab two spoons and make our way to that swing. So many happy memories.
Three or four years later, after Papaw had died, my family moved into that house. We tore the screens off the porch and took the swing down. It’s old rusty metal needed a fresh coat of paint. My parents painted it white. Momma traded the old blanket for a green and white striped outdoor cushion. The pillows, including my scratchy orange one, were replaced by matching green and white striped pillows. It still smelled like pennies, but the old pillow smell had gone with Papaw and a new paint and cushion smell had come.
Soon my brothers and I figured out that, with no screen porch to hold us in, our swing could fly! They would sit on it and I would hold on to the back. We could run, jump, soar and kick the ceiling hard enough for little blue paint chips to rain down on us! Our metal swing was a spaceship, a time machine, a racecar, an airplane, and many more things in our vividly painted imaginations. It helped me write my drug paper for 5th grade DARE class. It calmed my nerves when public performances were coming up. It was the first place I learned every lyric to an entire soundtrack. (Lion King, of course.) It was so much in my life.
Over the years, the white paint flaked off, the cushions lost their fluff, and a few kitties spent a little too much time on it. The bolts had to be reinforced into the ceiling and parts replaced because they were dripping black spots onto our heads and clothes.
On September 11, 2001, the swing broke. All three of us were homeschooled by that point. We didn’t really understand why Momma told us school was canceled. We just knew that the news was on a lot and they kept showing plane crashes. So being the kids we were, imagination and the front porch won out over the news that kept playing the same images over and over again. We were swinging hard and high. Suddenly, I heard a snap and felt my body drop. A sharp pain went into my arm. My vision turned to blackness and light. When my eyes finally focused, I saw one brother running down the driveway to the back of the house, the other brother lying in the hydrangea beside me, and the swing hanging from the ceiling by one chain. There was blood on my arm and I could hear yelling. The swing never fully recovered.
A few years later, we had to replace the first swing. Between fall damage, rust, and weather exposure, the bottom beam had broken through. The replacement was made of wood and smelled like oak. It had a shiny brass nameplate describing where it had been made. It was sad to see the old one go, but number two was nice enough that the old swing wasn’t missed too much.
Swing number two didn’t need a cushion. It occasionally needed a towel when it rained, but not too often. It was used for imagination and high swinging like the old one. It took me through most of high school: writing papers, reading and working nearly all of my subjects on it (history, biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, calculus, geometry, english, literature, grammar, etc). Most of my poetry was written on that swing. It held me when I cried over the deaths in my family. It held me when I needed a quit place to journal. It supported me when life felt like it was falling apart. It even rocked me to sleep on warm summer afternoons. I love that swing.
Later on, this swing also fell out of the ceiling on us more than once. At one point the bottom beam snapped in two. So my dad and I took the swing down, back to his shop, cut a new board from a two-by-four, screwed it in, and I was back to swinging by that evening. It was a great afternoon.
My third swing (shown in the picture above) was special in its own way. It didn’t physically replace the second swing. They are both on the porch as I type, but it did replace the swinging on it. This swing was made to solve a problem. There needed to be two swings on the porch so that they would match, and we had two swings: swing number 2 and a really ugly uncomfortable one.
One afternoon, about halfway through college, Daddy and I took the swing down and back to the shop. We measured, traced, and created our own pattern for a swing based off of number two’s design. This was number three. It’s base was made of two-by-fours, ridiculously strong. It’s seat and back are made of oak slats, carefully spaced in the seat so that no pens or pencils could fall through the cracks. The angles were carefully measured to make sure the sitting was as comfortable as possible. There was sawdust everywhere, it smelled like fresh wood and Lowes. The skill saw screech could be heard down the street. The power drill too. By the next weekend though, Daddy and I had made swing number three. It is special to me. Our swing project. One of my favorite things.
This swing is by far the strongest. It was made to be that way. It has only broken once. Back in May, my youngest brother and I were swinging pretty high when an S-hook in the chain snapped on my side. The rush of falling, minus the blackness, was felt yet again. It had never broken this way on any swing before. The back flipped us over backwards. My hand flew up to break my fall. My brother’s didn’t. He landed with a crash on his shoulder, scraping it up pretty good. My arm was sore, but the worst part was where the swing put a gash in my foot. I still have the scar. It is fitting that it left its mark on me though. So much of my life has been near, in, on, or relieved by a front porch swing. Now, I will have a physically marking to remind me forever about my life in swings.
What about you? What are a few of your favorite things?