In search of story


The primal screen

I read of home trends, of what’s “hot,” of “dated” and “fresh.” “Pfau,” I say to all those housefashion police, as I step through my sliding back door. Don’t bother me with trends; I have a screened porch. It is the classic: the Parthenon, the Sphinx, that thing to be marveled at for all time. It is at once inside and outside, liberating and protecting, open and enclosed. Miraculous.

More’s the miracle, it takes me back to my grandma’s screened porch, the portal to bliss. A big swing hung there, covered with a worn woven blanket; I would sit next to Grandma for as long as she could stand it, and she scratched my back as we floated back and forth. Now, when the dentist comes at me, and I’d rather be somewhere else, I put myself on that porch, on that swing.

Grandma would sit on her porch when the chores of the day were done and the evening breeze rearranged the summer dust on the leaves. Sometimes a storm would blast through, and the porch would suddenly be the coolest place in the world, lightning-scented, drippy. And the summer dust would be washed away.

My porch has mere chairs, but I sit there when my chores are done (and when they aren’t). The summer evening performs. “Bolero”-like, it layers its after-dinner sounds and slowly swells with voices and trimmers, the pit-pat of joggers, the under-buzz of bikes, the rhythms of bouncing. Then just crickets. And doors, like eyes, closing dreamily on the day as the sun bows low and takes its leave.

Cycles of life, light and dark, the busy and the still, in theater before us, Grandma and me.