From the river rushing past to children chattering, the view from my booth at the restaurant reminds me of a front porch I once owned. There wasn’t an afternoon on any given Sunday, spring or summer, the swing hanging from its rafters was bare. Now, a restaurant overlooking the mighty Ohio provides my family’s shelter from the sun and cultivates an unlimited supply of laughs.
Back then, when the stories were engrossing enough, even the wasps couldn’t run us off. With each creek of the swing, family members were more invested, more embedded in the tale.
Since my dad is a retired police officer and other adult males wore the badge as well, the topics ranged from why a woman was at the front door one morning requesting her front teeth back after a catching a ride home in the cruiser, to how one lady who had poisoned her husband by pouring ant poisoning into his milk was sentenced to ten years in prison where her designated work detail was kitchen duty.
I’d curl up and listen, ice-cream dripping onto the concrete and attracting a few dozen ants. I’d wonder how a person could drink ant poison and not taste it.
Sometimes an ornery youngster would set off a Works bomb behind the house to a porch-full of unsuspecting ice-cream eaters and the chase was on. The offender was severely tickled when caught.
Since the teaching profession also runs in my family like the genetic trait carrying our contagious sense of humor, many of the musings were school-related. One student’s parent burned down a brand new house by setting the furniture on fire in the living room because he didn’t know how to work the thermostat and then there was the student who distributed brownies to over fifty kids before the bake sale that lent a new meaning to “baked” was stopped.
I no longer own that front porch, but the memories are etched into my brain like my boys’ handprints in the sidewalk leading to the steps. Time can’t steal them and they aren’t for sale.
As I sit in the river-front restaurant that serves as my makeshift front-porch this Lord’s Day, I feel gratitude for the many squirt-gun fights and smiling faces that flickered across that porch. I thank God for every steak and burnt hamburger that was cooked on the grill there—for even the rare times I got too close and burnt my arm hair … or pushed the grill too close and singed the house siding.
My hamburger today is crispy just the way I like it, but I can’t just hop up and chase a youngen through the restaurant with a water hose. Oh, I could, I suppose, but the manager would probably call the cops.
I look across the table at the two officers with me at this outing and smile. I feel safe to express my wild side. I think they would be laughing too hard to even find their handcuffs.
My nephew’s snickering and choking on his sweet potato fry as Dad puts a fresh spin on a well-recited story. Maybe a good laugh doesn’t have to take place on a front-porch strewn with toy trucks and laser guns; but as the waitress bustles by and a toddler at the nearby table tosses a spoon onto the floor, I recognize the specialness of every Sunday that there was no chef on call or waitress to wave down—only a porch-full of rockers, ants, ice-cream and laughter so thick that to the passing traffic, we must have been as invisible as the poison in that poor man’s milk.
Now, I say, life’s short—apple strudel a la mode anyone?
Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County, author of “Rain No Evil” and host of Life Speaks on AIR radio. Access more at soundcloud.com\lifespeaks.