Sitting on the front porch swing, I watched the world go by. All the people driving their cars to some place, some purpose – a job, some destination that I did not have. No, as far as I was concerned, theirs was a life that I was only meant to envy. Their lives were unknown to me, something I could only fantasize about. But I was sure that they felt more fulfilled, had more money, did everything better than I did and had more social status than I. They seemed to be living! I felt I was just existing.
Twenty-some years have gone by since those days. I do miss the front porch swing and those literally lazy days of summer that I’ve heard of, but wonder how or why such a phrase was ever coined. These days my summers are filled with work for pay, work for no pay and busy activities. Even if I had a front porch swing, I can’t imagine that I would get to spend much time sitting in it pondering other peoples’ lives.
A lot has changed. I am no longer accompanied by two small children begging for more made up stories or songs from my childhood sung loudly as we swing high enough to touch my toe to the ceiling of that old farmhouse porch. And the cookie jar, as my mother would complain, is vacant. My front porch swing companions have grown up and out, and left me behind along with their youngest brother who will soon follow them out the door. This is his last year at home, as he is a senior in high school with plans to go to a university a couple of hours away.
I no longer sit on the porch watching other people with envy. For with this passing of time came the eye opening to reality. As I entered the world of white collars and professionals, I found that it wasn’t much different than mine had been, only the depth of envy has shifted from purpose to possessions or positions. No one has much time to sit on a porch, and sometimes I wonder if any of them ever did or if they would allow themselves to be idol for that long.
Front porch sitting is like a big wooden spoon in a bowl of brownie batter. It scrapes the bottom and brings up lumps and exposes the white grains of flour and sugar that were sitting unrevealed at the bottom of the bowl. And those revelations take a little work to mix in, but in the end, when those brownies emerge from the oven with their shiny top layer and delicious sticky middle, it was worth the stirring.
It’s funny where life takes you. That twenty-some years ago, I never imagined myself in the place I am now. I felt so “less than” and so unworthy. Now I find myself sitting amongst those people that I used to envy, driving to work beside them each day and find that I no longer envy them. I don’t know that they’ve ever sat upon the porch with only two young mouths to feed as their purpose, and felt the longing and loneliness that I felt then, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
My children may not have had the latest and greatest toys, a huge house with a pool in the backyard, and one year our Christmas was even provided by my generous sister. But they had me and I had them. And we had time to be present with each other on that front porch swing. Bonds were formed that we carried over to my youngest son, whose life included two parents working and a materially better lifestyle. But it was in that time of stirring the batter that I found the secret ingredients of life.
As my life is about to turn another corner, the empty nest just around the bend, it’s good to look back and see that I didn’t know then where I was going to end up or how I was going to get there, but as if I had been placed on the conveyor belt of life, I made it to my destination. So I am trusting my personal conveyor belt to take me where I need to go. It got me this far, right?