Hot Summer Days and Porches

I knew my mother loved to write but she did not have a journal. Unfortunately, it never occurred to me to ask her about her pages…a regret I still have. A few weeks after her death, I stumbled upon random pages, lots of pages. They were in boxes, folders, her suitcase. I cried when there were no more pages to find. I have been able to piece together much of what she wrote and her words are treasures to me. The words have helped me understand my mother and the difficult time she had while growing up. Let me share with you…

abt 1930, Athens, Georgia

On this page from my mother’s journal, we read a painted descriptive word picture of their activities on a hot summer day in Athens, Georgia. A Southern front porch was an important place to go to escape the heat.

The day was hot. Nothing moved except the heat squiggles rising from the street. In the western sky there was a small cloud, bringing hope that there would be an afternoon shower. Rumbling of thunder punctuated the expectation. Yesterday there had been the same, and the day before, and maybe three days before that – but still no rain and no break in the heat wave. Newspapers were used as fans and everybody sat on their front porches, trying to overlook the withered leaves on the rose bushes. The city had said “No unnecessary watering – we’re short on water supply.”  We chatted, saying pretty much the same things we’d said before.

The neighborhood children sought shady places to play jackstones. The ice wagon came early in the morning and sometime during the afternoon we shared a pitcher of ice water, occasionally a pitcher of ice tea.  In the distance, possibly two blocks away, there was a short whistle blow, then another and another. The walking postman was getting closer and whether we were expecting mail or not, we anxiously awaited his coming. It broke the monotony. In spite of the heat, he was always cheerful. “Yes,” he commented, this would be the day we’d get rain. It’s getting closer everyday.”

The week went slowly. No letters came, also no rain. Mornings were completed after the ice man came, the beds made, the dinner dishes washed, the floors swept and then we could go again to the porch. The girl next door gave piano lessons and we listened as she counted the time for her pupils, also as she raised her voice in protest if they hadn’t practiced. I wished I could be one of the lucky ones to take piano lessons – but I’d have to be content that my fingers were nimble enough to be the best jackstone player. To prove it I could show that on my right hand I’d worn my fingernails down to the quick.

The pillow cases I had been hem-stitching got to be such a chore. My sweaty hands were used as an excuse to stop – but Mama said I couldn’t quit until they were complete. The pillow cases, made from bleached flour sacks were needed, but the thing needed most was the discipline and the lesson Mama would say repeatedly, “Stick to it until you finish.”      Doyce Driskell Lampkin

 

My love for front porches came from hearing my mother talk about these summer days! Then when we would visit Athens, I would spend my time in the porch swing, imagining my mother as a child playing jackstones or hemming pillowcases. Only one picture remains of one of our Athens’ porches and you can imagine how treasured it is! Years later, when this Southern girl moved to the Pacific Northwest, I discovered very few homes had porches. When we were able to buy our own home, can you guess what was one of the first things my husband did?  The porch he built is smaller than those in my memories…but it is just as loved!

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8 Responses to Hot Summer Days and Porches

  1. Karen says:

    How lovely! I remember my grandmother’s porch–it had an amazing trumpet vine that grew up one of the end posts. We would sit out there at night and watch stars, dream and drink lemonade. Karen

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    • Ruth Packard says:

      My aunt’s porch had a gardenia planted right next to the porch swing. Gardenias give me horrible headaches but I wouldn’t go inside. Loved the porch swing too much! Yep…we did dream, didn’t we?! Beautiful porch memories!

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  2. Porches are wonderful in the PNW because you can get away from rain. Maybe our weather keeps down the number of porches. Isn’t it nice to find you are in a line of writers? Thanks for sharing a piece of your past.

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    • Ruth Packard says:

      Our little porch faces the East and Columbia Heights and is the perfect place to get warm in the morning sunshine, especially on our chilly PNW summer mornings! I think I will plan to sit on the porch and write.

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  3. Porches are so important to me. My last house will have one. 😀

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  4. Oh what a lovely post – and such a treasure from your mother! I loved the glimpse into her days.

    I live in a small house so our porch is small, but it is well-loved and well-used. The house is about 100 years old, and I often think about how many people has sat on it and all the conversations, all the listening, all the watching and daydreaming that dear porch has witnessed.

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    • Ruth Packard says:

      I love old houses and their histories! Well…maybe I don’t love the drafts! I hope someone in your town’s historical society has given you an old picture of your home. It is so nice to look into the faces of people who went before us.

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