I don’t know if you have been blessed to have a Grandma Mary, someone who opened her home and heart to everyone and did little things to make you feel special.
I always looked forward to visiting in the summer. My favorite place at my grandma’s house was the front porch. It was a place of relaxation, and a love of community, a feeling of fellowship with her neighbors, Mrs. Hobby and Mrs. Johnson. Daily interactions and check-ins created a community around us that provided a sense of support, enhanced our personal development, that brought numerous benefits. The sense of community reduced neighborhood violence and created an environment that helped those in the community thrive.
There is no place like grandma’s front porch. If you were blessed to share a porch swing with your grandma, I know you will understand when I say that every time I pass a house with a front porch swing, I think of Grandma Mary sitting on her porch in her housecoat, one of my fondest memories is her calling one of us while we were playing to run upstairs to get her a pack of Camel cigarettes, yes, the ones with no filters. And if she was out, she did not mind sending us to the corner store to get a pack. Until 1993, minors were not allowed to purchase cigarettes, but because my grandma knew the man at the corner store, he would sell them to us. She sat on the porch swing, light up her cigarette with a BIC disposable lighter, then breathe the smoke from the cigarette in completely, not stopping for anything and exhaling it from her lungs. If you are not a smoker, it’s like sipping through a straw. It satisfied her in a way I cannot explain.
There where days when the house was too hot in the summer, and we would sit on the front porch and swing in the wooden swing hanging by chains. I loved sitting in that swing. I can still hear the chains rattling as we sat on the swing and gently swayed back and forth. There was always the smell of grandma’s cooking in the air, and most of the time (especially in the summer) it was a place to escape the heat and try to catch a breeze. The street in front of Grandma Mary’s house was a busy one. It was close enough that we could easily see the traffic, but not close enough to be a danger to all the grandkids who played in her yard over the years.
We played “Bus” as we called it, we would run from one stoop to the other when the City bus zoomed by pretending, we were running to catch it and then there was the “Car game” We would yell out at the cars that we like and claim it as what we would drive when we became old enough to drive.
On those warm and humid days, I would be swatting flies with Grandma Mary’s fly swatter, a small rectangular vented rubber, attached to a lightweight metal handle, making it easier to hit the annoying fast-moving flies. I would crush the fly against a hard surface after waiting for the fly to land somewhere. My skills increased, and soon, I was able to slap a fly mid-flight by whipping the swatter through the air at an extreme speed.
Years passed, and my children were born. Grandma Mary was still in good health, and the swing was still in good shape. If I close my eyes, I can see her sitting in the swing and Wyatt, what she called my grandfather, sitting in his lounge chair on the other side of the swing. He usually stretched out with his shades and napped a lot of the time. Grandma Mary would play her radio that sat in the windowsill, behind the porch swing to the top 100 songs on the radio, while watching everything that was going on in the neighborhood.
We sat on the porch swing for hours, swinging the days away even when it rained. We watched the birds and the cars go by, and we felt the summer breeze. In the evenings, we watched the sky turn dark. At night, we listened to the crickets and caught lightning bugs. Never once was I bored, or did I need something else to do. Just being there was enough. Those were good times. We talked a lot, but we sat a lot of time in silence, rocking and swinging, back and forth, taking in the day and our surroundings.
Today, I would give anything for another day on that porch.
Today, we are always running, always on a schedule, always checking off our list of things to do. Most houses aren’t built with porches but decks on the back. No one is interested in watching the traffic anymore. Times are different for sure, but life was so much less complicated back then. I long for those days.
Grandma Mary would get irritated with Grandpa Wyatt. Grandma Mary was mad at him for whatever reason and started complaining loudly about him. Grandpa Wyatt would not say a word. He sat there, letting her talk. Occasionally, he told her she didn’t know what she was talking about, but that only made her mad. One day, I asked Grandma why she was always so angry at Grandpa Wyatt. She told me in no uncertain terms that she loved Grandpa Wyatt very much. Then she said, she ‘wouldn’t pay a nickel for another one like Grandpa Wyatt, but she wouldn’t take a million dollars for the one she had.” She couldn’t stand him sometimes, but she loved him. She had funny ways of showing it though. She was a piece of work.
Grandma loved Grandpa Wyatt. My grandparents had more than their fair share of hard times, but they weathered them together. They never gave up on each other. That was not an option. Even when they acted like they hated each other, I knew they loved each other very much, even as young as I was.
Today, most couples wouldn’t survive the adversities my grandparents faced – wartime, military deployment, health issues. Today, any one of the situations they faced tore families apart. They disagreed and murmured. As much as she went on and on about everything he did, she would have done anything for him, just as she would have done anything for us. She loved her family. She loved with her whole heart. There was no time limit or prerequisite.
Grandma loved game shows. I could tell what time it was by what was on her idiot box, the television set. You dare not disturb her while the “Price is Right “or “Jeopardy” was on. You would be asking for a good swearing. She could curse you up one wall and down the other. She had so many clever little sayings. Oh, how I wished I could remember all the things she told me, and I wished I wrote them down back then.
Grandma took her time. She was not in a rush to do anything. Today, people rush through life at such a fast pace. They have no time to look for the little things. People are too hurried to notice the neighbor’s red roses or the shiny stone on the side of the road. Grandma did, and she taught me to do the same.
I miss her laugh.
I miss her smile.
I miss her talks.
I miss the time with her on the porch and at the dining room table eating cold breakfast food off the stove top.
I missed her murmuring about Grandpa Wyatt.
I miss doing puzzles with her.
I miss her peach cobbler and lemon meringue pies.
She was very special to me, and her memory still lives inside my heart.
Often, I close my eyes and go back to those lazy summer days on Grandma Mary’s porch. If I closed them long enough, I could see her face and feel the gentle summer breeze on my face, hear the swing rhythmically creaking, and smelled the familiar and comforting scent of food from the kitchen.
I love and miss you, Grandma Mary.