Digging up Dirt

IMG_7729Spring is my second-favorite time of the year. I’m a fall girl, through and through, but there’s something about spring that’s nice. The green is brand-new, almost neon in its shading. The rain comes and symbolically washes away the grime of winter, while the colors from the myriad of flowers nearly blind me in their intensity. I like to sit on my pollen-laden porch with my afternoon mug of coffee, and think about life. Or read. Or breathe.

As a child and teen, I spent many evenings swinging on our neighbors’, Goldie and Clyde, front porch. The adults would talk and catch up on the day. Clyde would regale us with stories of his time in the Navy during World War II and sometimes, he’d pull out a couple of spoons and play them on his knee. One of my favorite evenings was when he accompanied me as I played my dulcimer. As people walked up and down the street, Goldie would whisper,

Oh, my. There goes soandso. I heard her daddy got arrested last week. Yes, indeed! He was down in Jefferson at one o’ them dancin’ clubs. Got inta a huge fight. Cops came out and had to break it up! It was terrible!

If you wanted to know what was going on on Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana Streets in the greater Spring Hill area, then you parked your carcass on Goldie’s front porch swing. The last time I had the honor of sitting there was summer, 2006. I drove the twins to West Virginia for a visit and never returned. Clyde and Goldie both passed last year.

I always wanted a front porch big enough to accommodate a swing, chairs, and enough people to keep the conversation flowing. I am nosy by nature, but that’s because of my father’s influence. As a police patrolman, he taught me to be aware of my surroundings, so I liked hiding in the tree in our front yard and watching the comings and goings of the people living around us. Tyler and I had nothing but a concrete footing at the front door of our first house in Cumming and, until 10 years ago, had just a brick stoop here in Woodstock. After we added a porch cover and I could leave the kids in the house to their own devices, I started sitting outside more and more. Many times, they join me with their homework or books. And we’ll sit and listen and breathe. We’ll watch the neighbors come and go and talk about the birdsong, their days, their friends.

Unlike my time in West Virginia, I’ve grown more and more introverted. I have my friends, but I’m most content when it’s quiet and I’m alone. I seek out my friendships when I need to reconnect and recharge. The rest of the time, I read, think, write, and so on. If it weren’t for our kids, I wouldn’t know anyone in this neighborhood. Luckily, the parents of the children our kids play with are all awesome people. And they get me. But we don’t socialize with anyone else. From what I can tell, from where I sit on my front porch, and from the furtive whispers I hear when I’m out and about, I’m glad we aren’t “out and about.” Because the gossip is rampant. And it’s causing one of my friends to move away.

Tyler and I bought this house 16 years ago because it was a steal and it’s located in a great school district. What I’ve learned over the last 10 years, since entering the local school system, is that many residents of this area think rather highly of themselves. So highly, in fact, that they will put aside their own failings to cast aspersions upon others. I used to feel guilty for not socializing at neighborhood functions or school carnivals. But now? I’m glad I don’t. I’m happy I only know seven families out of the 168 in this neighborhood. I’m proud to say that I rarely make conversation with the other parents in my childrens’ classrooms. I’m thrilled that my brick stoop is the home of quiet contemplation and reflection and not gossip and wasteful talk. To see one of those seven so hurt that they feel they have to move to an entirely different neighborhood is uncalled for.

Tyler and I decided 16 years ago that this would be the home where we raise our family. And once they grow up and start lives of their own, we will say goodbye to this place and find our home that will give us solace in our golden years. And I hope, on that future day, when I lock this front door for the last time, that the neighbors will ask one another Who lived there? I’m not sure. They were there for a long time. But I didn’t know them. And that will be for the best.

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