There is a porch in Tennessee that welcomes me regularly to sit and enjoy its friendly offerings. It wraps around its house on two sides and overlooks a green expanse bordered by tall trees. My chair is positioned at the corner, which allows for the widest view.
To the right is a meadow with one lone haystack in the middle set up with a target for archery. Past the meadow and the haystack, if you look carefully, you can see a path through the trees that leads to another expanse. As you move your eyes toward the left the meadow goes deeper. The road is just beyond the trees there, but you can’t see it. You can hear the cars sometimes and at night you might see a flicker of passing headlights through the foliage.
There is a group of trees at this point, not too far from the porch. Two of them hold a huge hammock that I have yet to enjoy. Further to the left in front of the house is where the long gravel driveway ends, after it has winded its way through more trees and over two narrow bridges.
Various types of planters filled with colorful flowers surround the porch as well as Tiki lanterns that hold small Coke bottles filled with burning oil to ward off mosquitoes. The patio chairs are grouped together where the two sides of the porch meet.
It is summer. It is hot and humid, and the mosquitoes still bite, but we don’t care. We like to gather here, tell stories, guess who’s singing on Pandora, drink wine, and eat cheese and crackers.
My memory has faded as to when I first came to the porch and its family. Jim and I had been in Tennessee for only a short while when our friends, who we were staying with, had introduced us to them. We were welcomed with warm hospitality. It turned out that all of us had moved here from California and we found that we had much in common. I appreciate that the porch family was able to know Jim. Though it was only for a short while.
They often invite our mutual friends and me over for ‘porch time.’ There we settle in to enjoy each other’s company. Inevitably someone will start complaining about the chosen music station and then we fight for control. Well, we don’t really fight we just throw out snarky comments and suggestions for new music. I will marvel once again at the lightening bugs and be teased about it – once again. Hoss, the family dog, a very large and old black Lab will wobble into the center of our circle and plop down. Someone will complain about his smell and another will compliment the softness of his coat.
Stories will be told like how the house with the porch was built, or how we all came to live in Tennessee. As hunting seasons are discussed I am learning a little more about guns and wild game. We’ll talk about the upcoming weekend or holidays. We’ll come up with reasons to get together when there is no official calendar event. We’ll cover any topic – boring to intriguing. No discussion is off limits, not religion or politics, or even Jim stories. They are especially gracious to me when I tell my Jim stories.
Part of my new normal includes the porch family, a family that knew a bit of my life with Jim, but increasingly knows me without him. They are helping me transition to the new normal. I am free to reminisce when I hear an old familiar song. I’m not ignored when I share some random thought. It’s okay if I’m quiet or I laugh or cry. I get to listen to new stories and watch family dynamics and antics. I’m able to make new memories.
Getting to the new normal will take time. Sometimes all you can do is just sit by and let it happen. Like I said I have my chair.