Great Uncles and Nephews (The only record of my family on the porch) The bare edge of the rocker is at the left
My dad’s family lived in a house with a front porch they never used. I mean they never used it during my lifetime. When we visited, we always parked in the side yard and used the kitchen door for our exits and entrances. (Some farm families do that; the kitchen is the heart of the house and everyone’s go-to spot before and after the fields.) All the indoor rooms were lived in but the front porch, with its wrought iron supports and cement floor was just not a comfortable place. The only decorations I remember seeing on the porch were some Elephant Ears growing out of coffee cans and the only seats were some wooden rocking chairs that could put splinters in your thighs if you sat in them. These chairs were hard and unfinished and the antithesis of comfort. Alone, they were enough to turn me into someone who hated porches.
Luckily that didn’t work because my adult home came equipped with a porch that I wouldn’t change for the world. Running the length of the house it feels like acres of space and from the first, I wanted to equip it with rockers; big, beautiful, polished, wide rockers like they sell in Cracker Barrel stores. Of course when we moved in, we couldn’t afford Cracker Barrel’s furniture but I was willing to wait. Someday those generous machines for sitting would surely grace my porch.
The porch rocker in its natural state: distressed but not depressed.
In June my husband claimed he had found me the perfect birthday present. No, it wasn’t what I asked for (he said) but it was exactly what I wanted. He was sure of it. Then, he presented it with all of the pride of a little boy showing something he’d made in Scouts. It was a wooden rocking chair, narrow, unpainted and splintery, just like the ones on the old front porch.
So how do you tell a husband you hate his present? How do you point out the differences between your dream chair and what he found for you? I’ve got to tell you, I couldn’t. Instead, I coated it with spray paint, stuck it on the front porch and mentally declared I’d never sit in it.
Then Hurricane Ivan hit.
You may not believe it, but when a Grade 3 storm hits the coast, we feel it 280 miles north. The wind and rain took out the power and the only place to wait out the storm with enough light was on the porch. I sank my rear end into the depths of an Adirondack chair and stared at the world now over my knees. Hubby sat down in the chair he gave me and began to rock. For hours I tried to converse with a spouse whose head was three feet above mine. I was miserable but he was obviously comfortable. And, because he was wearing blue jeans, he seemed immune to splinters. Was I wrong about the old porch rocker?
Ready for another 10 years of weather
Of course I was, on so many levels. Not only was I ungrateful brat when my husband was trying to please me, I was ignoring the heritage on both sides of our marriage. Both of our families grubbed a life from the land, his in Alabama and mine in Oklahoma and neither one had money for polished, front-porch rockers. When the long days were finished and they needed a breeze, our grandparents rested in rough wooden porch rockers like this, at least until they got air-conditioning. They hoped we’d find an easier life and we have, but at base, we are still country people and my husband’s chair was the perfect choice for the porch. It’s a part of our lives.
My birthday rocker still graces the front porch and today he got a fresh coat of paint. Nothing too fancy because he is what he is, a chair designed to withstand rough weather. He’s actually quite comfortable and sturdier than he looks. And now that I’ve lost some weight, it turns out he’s not narrow at all. In the decades he’s spent with us he’s held cats, friends, guests, tools and groceries and I expect he’ll hold us for the rest of our days. It turns out, I didn’t need to get the porch rocker I valued. I just needed to grow up enough to value the porch rocker I have.