It had to happen. A runner-up.
The following piece was submitted a teeny bit late, after we’d already chosen a winner. A young Girl on the Porch in her own right, Alice, is just 14 years old. Our families are close and some of my best memories are of our two families – mothers and kids, no husbands allowed – at their summer house in Vermont. Reading and talking and drinking tea and best of all – we girls making art up on the second floor sleeping porch, still clad in pajamas, while the ruffians were all out in the woods target shooting with BB guns.
It’s a dreamy summertime escape, a place where time stands still: electricity is spotty, there is no television or wireless and up until very recently, no hot running water. We boiled a pot on the stove to wash dishes. We bathed in the lake. I asked Alice if she’d share some thoughts on it, and this is what she wrote:
Our weather beaten couch, our wicker white chairs
Our spray painted rocker- and a few of the stairs
Our paint flakey railing fading with age
Our wonderful porch transformed to a stage
A home for spiders, birds and vines
Surrounded by graceful welcoming pines
So though we’ve already announced a porch story winner we’ve determined we need a runner up. We’ve want to give special something to a wise and thoughtful soul who shines her light on all of us, regardless of any difference in age. For Miss Alice – these rather charming garden markers are headed your way.
I happened upon these wandering through a fantastic little shop down here in San Marco called Rusted Market. A lovely woman named Patti Richards makes them. She has a business called Judy’s Antiques within the market, named after her mom. I love that. My mom’s name is Judi too. A funny little coincidence, another example of the feelings of connection that make the world go ’round.
Patti explained that down here in the south there is a plethora of old silver that finds its way into estate sales, junk shops etc. The random pieces long since separated from their sets were too pretty for her to ignore. She figured that flattening them and stamping them could put them into useful service again as garden markers. Clever, creative, thoughtful. We Girls on the Porch types love this.
Finding them and talking to Patti also spurred on a rambling trip down memory lane. That old English ballad made popular by Simon & Garfunkel “Scarborough Fair” – I remember hearing it on the radio on our back porch in the Chicago suburb where I was raised. I asked my mother, Judi, “what is parsley-sage-rosemary-and-thyme?” (It sounded like one long word to me then.) She explained that they are herbs, plants. “You cook with them.” I couldn’t grasp that. At about 6 or 7 years old, the only things called herbs I’d heard of were those red and white McCormick jars my mom pulled out of the cabinet. It seemed impossible that those dried, dark flakes could have started out as green and leafy plants. You could actually grow them?!
We had recently moved from a city apartment into a tiny and sweet, white clapboard cape cod on the outskirts of a suburb about an hour north of the city. It had a half-acre back yard which felt enormous, and my summers were spent carefully investigating all of the flowers and plants growing there. The bed of pink and white peonies crawling with ants along the right hand side of the fence line. The giant lilac bush off to the left, which I turned into my own private fort. The strawberry patch my mother naively pulled up, thinking they were weeds. (She replanted them once she learned the truth.) That neighborhood had the feel of a small, semi-rural town then as opposed to the sophisticated suburb it is now. When my grandmother came out to visit she was frightened of the darkness and silence at night. There were empty lots full of wildflowers and several acres of cornfield right down the road. It was magical to wander out the kitchen door in the morning – I can still hear it slam – with a blanket and book, my paper and pencils and disappear for hours.
It was there, in that house, that I developed a life long interest in gardening, a passion for flowers and a preference for a quieter, off-the-beaten-path kind of lifestyle. Interestingly, the love of cooking didn’t really kick in till much later, until college, when I started working in restaurants and helped tend my friend’s herb garden in the front yard of the little, pink house we rented in Lawrence, KS. Another wonderful small town, incidentally.
I’m not sure if Alice has given any thought to starting her own garden yet or maybe just planting up a window box. If not, she can just keep these as something pretty to look at and inform her daydreams. We know she’ll be able to hear and see the stories, to find the connections in that softly shining silver when she retreats to her own quiet space on the porch to listen…