My people were porch dwellers. We existed within the confines of the four walls of our humble wood frame houses during the cold, dreary months of winter, but the balance of the year we lived and thrived on our porches.
The porch was where our hearts and souls and spirits dwelled.
The porch of my paternal grandparents, Claud Walton and Eula B Rozzell, was on the front of their house on Latta Lane, just down the road from Feliciana and a short distance from Water Valley in Graves County. The 8-by-20-foot porch was edged with hydrangea bushes lush with blue blooms and plants of old-fashioned bleeding hearts dripping teardrops of dew.
The porch was where the rural Rozzell family members eagerly waited with sweet anticipation for the arrival of out-of-town relatives looking chic in store-bought clothes to come rolling up the narrow, dusty, gravel road in their big, shiny cars smacking of the glamorous city life.
Aunts, uncles and cousins gathered from exotic locales such as Cape Girardeau, Mo., Belleville, Ill., and a world away - Amarillo, Texas. To a young country girl, these locations seemed as mysterious and remote as Tanzania, Morocco or Bali.
Family feasts were delicious and plentiful, but there was an unwritten law requiring these feasts be consumed at the table and never on the porch. Refreshments served on the porch were icy cold beverages sipped from aluminum tumblers sparkling with beads of condensation and freshly churned, homemade ice cream. It was a delicacy intended to nourish the soul more than the body!
During visits on the porch, my kindly granddaddy, the old War World I doughboy, peeled apples, mesmerizing us as we watched the peelings fall in impossibly long strands.
And he whittled for hours, always with a spittoon at his feet and his docile old dog, Sport, there beside him. If a dog could smile, Sport had a perpetual smile on his face. I can't recall granddaddy's whittlin' ever resulting in anything recognizable, but I suspect he did some of his deepest thinking and best reminiscing then.
While granddaddy peeled or whittled, grandmother Eula B, the fierce, hardworking, undisputed family matriarch, would swing and talk. Her constant companion, an ill-tempered, white Spitz dog, named Snowball, who despised everybody and everything but Eula B, would lie primly at her feet.
My people dwelled on the porch back when children were still seen and not heard. Young cousins listened to the elders relate tales about what a character "Uncle George" was especially after a nip or two of "Old Grand-Dad."
We heard about Aunt Etter's fabled thin teacakes that would melt in your mouth and feared our quality of life would forever be diminished for being deprived of just a morsel of one of them. We heard riveting tales of the cyclone of 1917 that wreaked havoc on Dublin, Ky., and its devastating effects on granddaddy's people who lived there.
Some people's best singing is done in the shower, but mine was done on the porch swing swinging as high as I dared with my sister and cousin singing, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" over and over again. It was my best not because it was good or sprung forth from talent, but because it was true and joyful like only a child's song can be true and joyful. I guess in the sheer delight and secure cocoon of childhood, I was somewhere over the rainbow and didn't even know it.
The porch was where after a visit, whether it lasted for days or for weeks, all the family gathered for the reverse ritual of sending the city folk on their way with hugs, kisses, handshakes and those manly slaps on the back administered by men back then in lieu of hugging.
Just the other day, sitting on the old dilapidated porch vacated decades ago, I speculated on porch logistics. How did the migration from house to porch resulting in those precious memories come to be each day, and how in the world did all the kinfolks, friends and neighbors fit so comfortably and naturally on one tiny piece of real estate
I'll never know. What I do know is despite the earthly family circle being broken by the passing of loved ones and the family scattering over the years as families do, there was a time on that old porch on Latta Lane when the world had no claim on the descendants of Claud Walton and Eula B Rozzell.
We belonged only to each other.
Susie Rozzell Fenwick is a freelance writer from Water Valley, Ky., whose blog can be found at www.valleymusings.com.You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
posted on: Thursday, July 10, 2014 10:33 AM
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