Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The view from the front porch has been sticky hot during the daytime. 100+ temperatures are even a bit much for a summer lover like myself. But then, late night summer evenings are the best times for porch sitting anyway. Who needs television or the computer when the front porch is calling with the lure of a soft breeze. Back in the town were I was born, almost every home has a front porch. Some of them have two or three porches. The New River, really the second oldest river in the world, runs below the town. I have wished many times that I had been raised there. But the parents had to find work to support the family, so it was necessary for them to strike out and leave the Appalachians behind. That took a hell of a lot of courage for a young couple with two kids to do. While I was growing up, we made many trips to those ancient hills to see the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and old friends. My Dad would talk about his growing up on the river, and how he would swim across it. He was an admitted river rat. Across from my Aunt's house (which had three porches) was an island in the river. It had a sandy beach, just like the ones along the North Carolina coast. Summer trips back to Hinton would always require Dad borrowing a rowboat for the sojourn across to The Island for a picnic. I was given the important job of being the lookout, sitting in the prow of the boat, watching for the huge rocks that would have surely caused grief if the boat hit one. Once we had arrived on The Island and secured the boat, Mom would set out our picnic of sandwiches, watermelon, tomatoes, and iced tea on a quilt. There was a huge tree that leaned out over the water. Some limber and athletic soul had climbed it and secured a thick, strong rope to the upper part of the trunk. My Dad and brother would hold onto the rope, run, and then swing out over the river, where they would loudly splash down into the water with a rebel yell. Afterward, Dad would float serenely on his back in the water like a happy river otter.
Those days are shimmering jewels encased forever in the amber of my mind and heart. Summer evenings on the porch I find myself taking each memory out of safekeeping to savor it moment by shining moment. The Island, which back then was owned by the Hinton's, the founders of the town, was eventually purchased from them for a measly sum and a cabin built upon it. But in my memory, it remains the place of pristine beauty and precious memories. And I can see Dad laughing and swimming across the New, forever young. (Painting by ©LynHamerCook, Welsh Corgi, No Gurls Club.)