Twice this weekend I reassured two different and unrelated friends about the weather. “I’ve lived my whole life in the midwest and have never been in a serious tornado situation.” One nodded and said nothing though I could see that this did not comfort him. “E2s” texted back the other, referring to the storms in South Carolina. “Don’t borrow trouble,” I tapped on the glass face of my phone as I sat by myself eating black beans for dinner and drinking a beer out of the bottle. I was reassuring myself, too, as I worried that all my boys were in different places during the unstable weather. It was hard to believe there would be a storm, the sky was so clear and pale. Almost white.
My next door neighbor and his wife were grilling out and I could smell the charcoal as it heated. He was playing the guitar and singing to her. I thought he was singing to her and I hope that he was, though I don’t really know that this was the case. He could have been singing for himself alone. They have wind chimes and there was not even enough breeze to make them stir. When I first heard the chimes after I moved, I wondered if they would bother me. If they would wake me in my sleep. They do not and I am often soothed by their irregular ring as I lie in bed waiting to drift off.
My neighbor on the other side has chimes as well and a son and daughter-in-law who have been visiting for a week. They are on vacation and as I shuttle children back and forth this young couple – and they look very young – sit on the porch with one another and with friends. They talk and laugh and drink from red plastic cups. The houses are close and they greet me a few times a day as my too-big black car pulls up beside their porch. They always give a friendly, “hello.” His mother seems happy to have them here. When we moved in she brought a colorful bag with a few beers, a bottle of red wine, a bottle of white and Izzy for the boys. It made me like her immediately; she had covered all of our bases.
Across the street an older couple celebrates the holiday with exuberance. What holiday? Every holiday. Banners and flags, lights and trees, hearts and eggs. A holiday is over, but not stale, and its decorations come down and the next go up. Each time I am struck by the effort of it. The packing and unpacking. The taking down and putting up. I imagine that the inspiration is largely the wife’s, though the labor is largely the husband’s. He seems unbothered by it. He is the one who pushed a ten gallon bucket of salt into my eldest’s hands during the worst of the winter, worried that we did not have enough.
The young couple a few doors up, the ones with the golden dog with the long curving tail and stubby nose that makes me think it may be part boxer, may be the most like me. They might see no resemblance between us, my middle-aged self and life so different from their unlined faces and their late morning walks. They raise their hands as I come out to get the paper, but don’t stop to visit. Perhaps they come, as I did, from neighborhoods that are friendly but staid. Neighborhoods where children make noise, but little else does.
My last house, the house with no name, is almost an island. I could go days without seeing a neighbor and I liked that about it. Though now I see that that had more to do with me than anyone who lived around me.
Nearly all the houses on my new street have front porches. Many of these porches have swings. I’ve never lived in a house with either a front porch or a front porch swing and I can tell you, it is a defining element. The porch and the swing have changed me. Already, in the last few weeks when the weather has been warmer, I find myself there – sitting, reading, eating, talking on the phone and, for about twenty minutes Saturday, napping. When I awoke, my lids parted lazily and not with a start.
Falling asleep in general has become something of a chore and I never know if it is age or hormones or the amount of trouble that I am borrowing that keeps me awake in my bed. But, if this swing can relax me enough to offer me the security to fall asleep out of doors, its gentle rhythm erasing the concern of a storm that may or may not come, then I know it is the right place to be.