The boys are peacefully sleeping away in their shared upstairs bedroom. Long eyelashes sprawl up and away from resting eyes. Chests rise and fall in soft, even rhythms. I don’t really see any of this, but a girl can imagine it. I tiptoe through the house some days putting away all the contents of bins that Parker has dutifully dumped onto the floor. Sometimes, I get a head start on dinner during the napping hours. And sometimes, I crawl into my own bed immediately and fall into the soundest sleep.
Parker always wakes up first. It’s never an ‘I’m so happy to wake up’ kind of sound. There is usually a lot of wailing and screaming involved. Followed by a fierce kicking of the crib rails, followed by him shouting, “Get me out of here!”
I trod up the stairs and into his dark room. His cheeks are red and wet with tears. I reach over the crib rail for his favorite blankie and drape it over one shoulder. I pick him up and he gently rests his cheek onto his blanket, breathing in the familiar smell. He wraps one arm around his bear and as we walk out of his room, his eyes close again.
We walk down the steps and toward his favorite place. The front porch swing. It’s nothing fancy. The seat is weathered boards covered with a peeling white paint. It hangs from the ceiling of the front porch by two rusting chains that travel down into the armrests. Between the wooden slats, tiny spiders have taken up residence, building fortress-like webs. But oh, the glory. The sway. The creak. The breeze. It’s amazingly divine.
I sink down onto the swing and Parker curls into me. My foot pushes us gently backward and I fall into an easy rhythm. Back and forth. Back and forth we go. Time melts away as he sleeps. I watch the squirrels as they pass on high wire, I hear the endless chatter of birds in the cypress trees, I feel Parker’s soft flesh as he relaxes completely into my arms. And this goes on. Day after day around 3:30. His favorite place is turning into my favorite place.
Some days I wonder about the swing. About its stories. Our house isn’t fresh and fancy – it was built in 1939. Quite possibly, the swing is original, though I’m not certain. I think about the stories it could tell. How many people have rested their weary legs in its seat? How many kisses has it shared with couples, young and old? How many friends have sat side by side catching up with glasses of red wine in hand? How many grandmas have held tight to grand babies as they tickled little piggies and kissed sweaty foreheads? How many kids have piled on to it and sailed higher than approved by their panic stricken parents? How many other toddlers have slept there in their mama’s arms? I’ll never know any of those answers. But I can imagine it’s a great many.
Soon, I see Jackson looking out the front storm door window. He’s half naked, as usual. He runs outside and climbs right up beside me on the swing. I hold the boys close and breath in the simple joy of the moment. It reminds me that all the best things in the world cost exactly nothing. On the swing, life feels slower, simpler. The world shifts. I forget how over-scheduled, over-worked, and over-extended we have all stretched our mental, physical, and emotional selves. Distractions fade. There is time to just breathe.
The swing waits for us each day. It collects our stories. It reminds us to pause and rest our weary hearts. It delights us with its motion. It helps us slow down and savor the simple joys. It is the heart and soul of our home. If you happen to stroll down Virginia Avenue, please, please, please, take a seat on our front porch swing. Rest your legs. Clear your mind. Breathe in and out. I promise, you won’t regret it.