Arlington Reservoir
A Blue Ribbon Walk

For the Love of Porch Swings

  Piano player porch Not the house in the story

Not long ago I saw an open house advertised and couldn't resist taking a closer look.  Before I even stepped inside, I knew the house was not for me; the roof was bowed and mossy, the exterior walls were mottled with mold, and even from the ground I could see that the second story window frames had lost chunks of wood.  But I was there, so I went in.

With my first step on the azure carpet, I was cloaked in the scent of dust, disuse, and Renuzit air fresheners.  Do I even need to mention that the next room had faux panelling and shag carpet?  Visions of my childhood bedroom filled my mind and I wondered, would it be rude to leave without even signing the book?  Then I saw something I knew I had to see before I left.  Off the dining room was a screened in porch, the sort that belongs on a building referred to as "the camp".  It had that same rough, well-used feel, where the screens are sturdy and the carpentry may or may not be.  And most importantly, at one end hung a wide wooden porch swing.  I climbed on, casting an eye at the beams to see if they were sound and began to swing.  Back and forth.  Drowsily push off with my toe -  back and forth.  A chickadee called.  A squirrel complained unseen from a branch high above, and I thought, maybe this house has some potential.  Such is the powerful draw of the porch swing.

  Boardwalk in woods
Last summer, while trying to find a new route to the library, I stumbled on a street that knows the value of the porch swing.  On Parker Street, which is at the most a quarter mile long, there are no fewer than seven porch swings!

Porch swing 050111

Parker street 060710

There are swings that appear purely ornamental, on porches so full of flowers and sculptures I can't imagine anyone relaxing there.  While other swings sway beneath wind chimes and grape vines, begging you to sit, sip an icy lemonade, and sing "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess.

My absolute favorite, however, is one that by all rights shouldn't be there at all.  This house doesn't even have a porch by conventional standards; it's more of a landing.  The inhabitants didn't let such minor details get in their way.  No, they removed the railing and attached the swing in its place! 

Porch swing 060710

You can get a better sense of just how tiny a space it is from the side view.

Side porch swing 060710
I love the ingenuity of it, the optimism, the unwillingness to let conventional wisdom dictate the rules.  I'd like to meet these people - if I ever see them out on their swing.




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