Last night I was surprised by the rain. It was late, and as I was getting ready for bed, I heard the patter on the windows. The sound inexplicably brought me back to my childhood.
I remembered my grandfather’s farmhouse, and the late summer weekends when my family would visit to help with the small crops. We weren’t farmers, although my great-grandparents had been; most of the land was sharecropped out, but we always grew some things for our own use. My dad would help my uncle and grandfather in the fields, gathering corn, digging up potatoes, picking beans and tomatoes, and my mother would be with the other women in the house, cleaning things as they came in and cooking. My brother and I would be given small chores, sometimes picking blackberries, sometimes hulling peas, but we would usually just screw around and get in trouble. After all, with the creek and woods so close, and all sorts of animals to chase around, who wants to pick berries?
But often in the afternoons it would rain, so we’d just sit on the porch and read Hardy Boys mysteries, or play Chinese checkers, or maybe hack up sticks and call it whittling, things like that. The rainstorms were gentle and terribly green, all lush grass and thick leaves on the black walnut tree in the front yard by the gravel road. From time to time there would be a burst of laughter from the grown-ups in the house, or maybe some excitement from a glimpse of a rabbit running past the porch, but it was peaceful, which is not something boys can often appreciate. Mainly we were bored, and hated being idle.
When I got a little older, though, I started to look forward to the rain, and the chance to sit on the porch swing. It was an old, creaky, wooden swing, built for two, with bare slats worn smooth from use, and a steel chain with a touch of rust hooked to the rafters overhead. I liked to sit there when it rained, and sometimes even when it was sunny, with a glass of sweet tea and a bag of potato chips and a book. It was a calming thing, relaxing, restful. Even as a kid, I didn’t get enough of that.
After my grandfather died my uncle demolished the porch so he could use the space as storage for the tractor and trailers. The house is still there, but has largely collapsed, and isn’t really safe. When the family visits they rest in a mobile home parked on the property.
I often wish I could return to that house and find the swing still gently rocking in the cool, rainy wind. I’m not looking to return to my childhood, though. but just to find that moment of tranquility again â€” to bring someone special there, to my grandfather’s house, to sit on the porch listening to the rain patter on the tin roof, tumble through the leaves, rush through the gutters â€” just sitting, holding hands under a light quilt, watching the watery gray-green world, letting the shower sing us a lullaby.