As a kid, I spent approximately 20 percent of my time swinging…in the tire swing at our babysitter’s house, on various Tarzan-style rope contraptions in the woods, or on a makeshift swing tied to a tree out by our old barn/motorcycle parts storage shed. I seem to recall swinging out on a rope and dropping into a river a few times, but maybe I saw that in a movie.
The only swing I regularly left unswung was the one in our backyard. During my dad’s brief stint as an amateur beekeeper, he housed the bees right next to our swing set and they quickly built a summer home inside our plastic rocking horse. Good times!
The mother of all swings and the one where I did my greatest proportion of swinging was on our back porch. Which is really less of a porch and more of a tacked-on room enclosed by sliding glass doors. It might have been a porch at some point, but most likely unlike any you’ve ever seen. Unless you’ve seen one with a refrigerator, a seldom-used auxiliary “dining” table, a string art lamp, and a non-working ceiling fan. Of course, if you’re from the South, maybe you have similar porch amenities.
What classified the area as a porch was A. the swing, B. the rocking chairs, and C. the lack of central heat/air conditioning. At Christmastime, we use the porch as an overflow refrigerator, which works out great except for those years when it’s 75 degrees on December 26, and we’re hard pressed to find a place to stash a ginormous turkey.
Southerners have a reputation for moving at a more leisurely pace than other folks. Never is that more true than when one passes time on a porch swing. The gentle back and forth movement easily induces a relaxed state. This is, after all, how one puts babies to sleep. Unless one uses Benadryl, which I hear is also popular.On a porch swing, time inches to a crawl and conversations meander. Questions are pondered. Secrets are shared. Occasionally, naps are taken. At the risk of sounding woo-woo, I think swinging can be transformative. As a kid, I’d probably have described the feeling as “exciting” or “fun.” The teenage me would have said (begrudgingly, because that’s how the teenage me rolled) “freedom.” Now I’d probably say “unburdened.” For a few moments (ok, hours) swaying back and forth without the harsh reality of ground beneath one’s feet, there’s a sensation of weightlessness, a suspension of dis-relief, maybe.
Well, unless the porch swing suddenly and without warning loses its grip on the ceiling and comes crashing down. Which can happen, y’all. I know because this scenario played out on our back porch once. Not while I was on the swing, mind you. But the incident did involve certain of my family members. I can’t recall which ones, exactly, and even if I did I wouldn’t name names. This happened more than 20 years ago, but I suspect the bruised egos are still tender.
I cannot end a post on porch swings without mentioning the song “Swinging” (AKA “Swangin”). This little ditty by John Anderson was the “Who Let the Dogs Out?” of its time (early 80’s). For a while, everywhere you went, people were singing (or “sanging”) about the joys of swinging on the front porch with a girl named Charlotte Johnson (who’s as pretty as the angels when they sing). I’m not sure how I made it through that particular summer without strangling one or two people. I thought I’d subject y’all to the original version, but I stumbled upon this version which may just be the best cover of any song by anybody. Ever. Why hasn’t this kid gone viral yet?
Photo credits: Porch Swing Reader by Holly Abston available at Etsy, Swing-out sisters courtesy of the Holloway family archives, Porch Swing Welcome sign by robayre, Flickr Creative Commons.