The Writing Well
June 2003 Archives
About The Writing Well or anything else on this site? E-mail me and I'll add them to the comments page!
June 24, 2003
Whenever I hear the word "porch" I find myself transported back in time to one of my childhood homes, the one on Nutt Road in Yates County, New York. It was a big farmhouse, complete with a creepy cellar, open spiral staircase, and two wonderful covered porches. The east side porch was our favorite, because it was sheltered from the road and looked out over Seneca Lake. The view was gorgeous! On rainy summer nights we could still feel like we were playing outside by staying on the porch. We'd listen to the rain pour down and watch the lightning play on the lake, feeling incredibly brave that we were outside in the lightning and yet still feeling safe and secure on that porch.
My youngest sister had her playroom on that porch during nice weather. The outside entrance was gated off so she couldn't escape, or at least, that was the goal. She always was an escape artist! But the porch was a pleasant place to play and so she was usually content to stay there. She had a plastic stove and tables and chairs and all her dolls out there and we older siblings would be invited to come have tea with her.
By August the fireflies would be out and my brothers and sisters and I would run wildly around the yard, trying to capture them into glass jars and then watch them light up. My dad and step-mom would sit on the porch swing and laugh at our antics while enjoying some quiet time of their own. Then we would all collapse on the porch, catch our breath, eat ice cream cones, and marvel at how many lightning bugs we were able to catch.
I think my favorite time, though, was in the winter. No matter how large your house may be, with five siblings, cabin fever is still a reality during those long, cold, snowy New York winters. When the west wind was blowing so coldly and there was too much snow on the ground to go far from the house, I would sneak out onto that east side porch, sit on the swing, and enjoy some peace and quiet. I'd take a book to read, pen and paper to write, or just enjoy the wintry view.
I am glad to see a resurgence in building porches. Eventually I hope to have a home with a porch again. A porch where I can bring my crocheting and listen to nature while working on my current afghan. A porch where I can bring a favorite book and relax in the warmth of the outdoors. A porch where family and friends can gather, gossip, and gab. A porch where memories can be shared and new memories created.
June 25, 2003
Yesterday I wrote about porches and the spectacular view from the east side porch at our home on Nutt Road. It's been twenty-four years this July since I lived in that house and I still miss the view. The house sat on top of a hill overlooking Seneca Lake, just a couple of miles north of Dresden. Seneca Lake is one of several lakes that make up the Finger Lakes, so called because they are long and slender, resembling fingers. Seneca Lake is also the deepest freshwater lake in North America (quite possibly the world, although I'm not positive about that). As such, the Navy kept a permanent research ship moored over the deepest section of the lake, just off Dresden.
The Finger Lakes are renowned for their vineyards and diverse crops grown along the lake sides, including sweet corn, green beans, cherries, apples, berries of all kinds, peas, field corn, alfalfa, soybeans, wheat, oats, cabbage, etc., along with numerous dairies. You name it and likely some farmer grows it somewhere in the Finger Lakes. All this diversity shows up as a checkerboard of colors in mid-summer. Green orchards, golden wheat fields, trellis for grapes, black and white cows in pastures, red barn roofs, silver and white silos - all work together creating a visual tapestry across the rolling hillsides. This was the view from the east side of the house, looking down the hill, over the sparkling blue lake and to the hillside across.
As much as I miss that view, I realized a couple of years ago when I was back in the Finger Lakes visiting relatives that I am no longer comfortable living where the hills take up so much of the sky. I have become accustomed to wide expanses of blue sky and that has become very important to me. After a day or so of being back within the hills of the Finger Lakes, I began to experience a very closed-in sensation and felt deprived of the sun and sky. It's a lovely place to visit, though, especially in June!
June 27, 2003
I've been thinking a lot about my childhood homes lately. Quite likely it's because I've been working on a novel that partly takes place where I grew up. I have to recall certain road names and locations of certain places in order to make sure my writing is accurate. And then also create places that don't exist there, which means wracking my brains trying to remember if the name I've come up with really is brand new or just one that I've heard before but I'm not remembering that I've heard it before!
Anyway, I had three childhood homes and it's weird, but I can often remember more details about the house and the grounds around it than I can about actual events that occurred there. Details become fuzzy or nonexistent when it comes to interactions with the people in my home. Yet I can remember everything about the trees we used to climb, the stream in the woods behind the house, the porches, the old henhouse we cleaned out for a playhouse, the garage stuffed full of tools and bikes. Why do I have better memories of places and things than I do of people and conversations and events?
One of my brothers wrote to me in response to my Mother's Day blog - a very nice e-mail, one that meant a lot to me. In it he mentioned some events that happened in our childhood, how much he would like to spend time talking about them, the good and the bad. I think that is a very good idea. We all have our own perspective, but perhaps talking about those things with my siblings will help me fill in some of the gaps of my own memories.
What does this have to do with "home," you ask? I'm not really sure! It seems that my topic has veered a little off course. How to bring it back, that is the question?
A few weeks ago I asked my mother to continue writing down her memories of her childhood. My youngest son Charles had been very intrigued with the stories she had written on her website a couple of years ago and hoped that she would continue relating her stories. She lived in such a different world than my kids live in, a world that he thought he might have really enjoyed. Hers was a very active, outdoor life, which appeals to Charles. But maybe, in addition to encouraging my mother to write about her childhood, I should do the same! My memory is not likely to get any better over the years, and it's entirely likely that life will be so completely different for my grandchildren that they will ask me to write about my childhood for them. I guess I better get started!