Daddy’s mom loved her swings.
Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren loved them too.
Nan gave birth to 12 children in the early 20th century; my father was born in 1918. (Go ahead, do the math..I turn 40 this year..Yip. He was 53 when I was born! Go dad!) She raised her family in the Pennsylvania Mountains, eventually moving to a little town outside of Pittsburg called Monroeville.
Growing up in Philadelphia, one of my fondest memories is of climbing aboard a Greyhound bus and heading for Murrysville where someone from the family would pick us up and take us to the home we all treasured as a place of reunion and familiarity.
I can smell the fresh vegetables from the garden where we would pick beans and sit around snapping the ends off to prepare them for cooking or canning. I can see the metal trash can outside the downstairs back door where we would husk the corn. I remember being one of a long line of cousins to get sick from eating too many berries off the arbor.
It was such a stark contrast to the concrete jungle I was accustomed to the other 11 months out of the year. The nearest neighbor was through the trees and down the hill. The second thing I would do upon arriving would be to run to the neighbors’ and find my summer friend, Paula Sue, (even her name told me I was someplace different) who would teach me about catching lightning bugs in a jar and watching them do their shiny dance before letting them go. We would search for smooth stones by the creek and lie in the tall grass as the clouds drifted by.
But the very first thing I would do, the very first thing every one of us would do when we got there (after the hugs and kisses and the ‘my how you’ve grown’s) would be to rush out to the big swing in the back yard! It was the kind of swing with two bench seats facing one another and a floor between. We kids would stand on that floor and make the swing sway back and forth using our legs and shifting our weight to get it going.
We would have long talks with family that we would see far too little of during the year. We would catch up, we would remember, we would dream and we would swing – for hours on end. It was where I learned lots of family history and legend. It was our favorite thing and it was our favorite swing!
But it wasn’t the only swing. There was the swing on the front porch where a privileged few could fit at one time; the rest would get the Adirondack chairs. We would greet the morning or welcome the night from that porch. There was the swing in the basement where we spent the majority of our indoor time. It was the ‘everything’ basement; kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom – no walls to separate between. We would all gather at the long table for meals. It was really several tables pushed together to get everyone around it at once. Pap would have no hats worn at the table, and do not dare to come without being properly attired! There were the old chain link and wooden board individual swings. Nan loved her swings!
I ponder those days when examining my life. Who am I now and why? What stayed with me all these years later? I would still rather hang out with family than just about anything else. I still love to head for the (deck), coffee in hand, and watch the sky go from day to night. I still prefer fresh from the garden over processed. Do these things happen all the time? Not as often as I would like, but I take it where I can get it. I learned from Nan that slowing down and being together is great for one’s heart and mind. Tranquil, peaceful coexistence, smiles and laughter do a body good.
Maybe I just need to build me one of those old swings and invite people to come sit on it with me, sway back and forth and take a break from the hectic pace of the 21st century. Wadda ya say? Got time for a cup o joe?