(raise up a child..)
“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.”
(‘Ways of Seeing’, John Berger, 1973, p.7)
The Front Porch (there were five porches, and I could make a list like this about each of them, but..this one, now)
This porch was the one we crossed over every morning, then across the lawn, and down to the driveway from kindergarten through 10th grade to meet Columbiana Independent School District Bus #4. Mr. Oesch was the first driver I remember. Dave Kimbel, Jackie Wise, and I would sit together, three across in the same seat, and we would talk on the way to school about Davy Crockett and Peter Pan. Later on the route, we would pick up Harry Dean and Mr. Oesch would make us laugh every single day with the same repeated sing-song: “Harry Dean the washing machine, combed his hair with the leg of a chair and called his mother a grizzly bear.”
This porch was one where a young tired-looking blond woman came one cold Saturday afternoon in about 1960 and asked for a drink of water. My mom told her to come in and sit down and I drifted into another room because the woman did sit down and began crying and I remember nothing else about that incident except that mom seemed to know what to do.
This porch was the one where I sat on the step after school in February 1964 and read and re-read a note from my mom written on a piece of tablet paper.
My sons it said on one side. Below that, she had written Dave and Denny. On the other side there were no crossed out words and I remember the note word for word: “Dearest boys, Grandpa [her dad] went to be with Jesus this morning. I’m going home with Aunt Betty now. Dad will tell you more. Love, Mom.”
This porch was the one from where Robbie and I entered the house carrying Joshua, three months old, at Christmas in 1974 and it was this porch where Robbie and I and Joshua, Darcy, and Sarah stood and sang “Jingle Bells” to announce our late night arrival for Christmas in 1981.
This porch was the one where Denny and I sat with cousins in November 1999, remembering when we had all years earlier played ‘Hide and Seek’ and ‘Cops and Robbers’ upstairs while our parents visited downstairs. It was the day of Dad’s funeral.
And..this porch was the one where, while I was on a visit home in the Spring of 2004, I knew for certain what I didn’t want to know for certain when Mom went outside to look for Dad to call to supper. Later that Spring was when Denny and I buried our mementoes when saying goodbye to the house. We buried them in a now-forgotten distance south then east, from this porch.
I keep thinking, imagining places in the house I would like to run my hands over one last time. It has become an almost obsessive thought. One would be the stairway bannister (18 steps up, hover over the heat register at the top, continue). Another would be the window in the bay by the bed where I slept. It opened to the east and looked out over the green then golden then bare then green again gingko (second largest gingko in Ohio!). And the top of the fireplace in the dining room- the fireplace in which thousands of hot dogs were roasted, hundreds of marshmallows were burned to a crisp, and where innumerable pennies were thrown into the hot coals to turn fiery red. And the porch, that porch. Just one more time.