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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sad (07/26/07)

TITLE: Creaky Squeaky
By Beth Muehlhausen


Creaky Squeaky

One year just as tree buds announced spring, our young family moved into an old brick farmhouse situated picturesquely atop a gently sloping hill. The back porch swing, located near the kitchen door, became a “way station” for boxes entering the house – boxes of cloth diapers, children’s books and toys, canning jars, tools, fishing gear, pots and pans - boxes representing hope for a new lifestyle full of promise.

The magnetic view from the creaky, squeaky swing - a long strip of untouched pasture highlighted by a meandering creek - beckoned small feet and weary spirits to escape limitations, either tangible or self-imposed. As days, weeks, and years passed, the swing called the family to a lifestyle hallmarked by freedom.

On a particular afternoon its chains squealed in celebration when all five of us packed ourselves into its seat and I announced we would soon have a new baby. The kids accepted the news matter-of-factly before running off to pursue minnows in the creek.

When the exterior brick walls soaked up summer sun and the stuffy interior seemed to corner me like an oven, I escaped to the porch swing and its song. Usually our farm dog, hiding in his own reclusive spot under an overgrown bush, crept out of his shady hiding spot to join me. His cool, wet nose offered comfort to my heart as well as my hand.

The swing also became a perch for thieving clowns - grackles and starlings that eyed dog food morsels in the always-full bowl on the back porch. After brazenly stealing nuggets, they flew off to lunch in the branches of a scraggly juniper tree transplanted from the pasture by a visionary lad.

On very windy days, or during fierce storms, the swing crashed repeatedly into the post on the far end of the porch to carve out a splintered and ever-deepening, concave scar. Miraculously, there was never any damage to the swing. It seemed impervious – an unchanging icon in the midst of the seasons as our family grew and matured.

But now all that is behind me.

Today I recline on the porch swing, head to hips, with my legs resting against, and gently pushing, the chain. The swing sways rhythmically from side to side, almost like a cradle, while creaking and squeaking as usual. I study fluttering cottonwood leaves silhouetted against a dramatic backdrop of clear blue sky and entertain memories of a barefooted little boy who followed his Dad behind the lawnmower in their shade.

There, those three bricks – they are the ones a daughter decorated with crayon stick-people drawings the year she started kindergarten, twenty-five years long years ago. Her little green and blue people look as freshly drawn as they did on the day of their creative, expectant invention – as if they promise to outlive the inevitable changes in their own lifetimes and beyond.

Suddenly the cottonwood leaves blur as a knot fills my throat. I stop pushing the chain, and the swing and its song both obey. I lie still and quiet in this private, sun-dappled spot, emotionally and physically paralyzed, summarizing the weight of recent loss.

The kids have grown up and left, and that new baby - a girl, now married - recently was the last to purge the house of her leftover childhood memorabilia. A “for sale” sign decorates our yard. Soon we will move away, and the old porch swing will usher boxes out of the house – including a library of books dealing with the chronic diseases that continue to tutor us in the redemptive value of suffering. We’ll move someplace smaller and simpler, and take what has grown up within us during the three decades we lived in the old farmhouse: faith, and hope, and love. We’ll also take the knowledge that debilitating illnesses will affect many of our future decisions.

Our elderly dog wandered off to a secret spot to die last week; he will never again come out from under the bush to greet me. Summer is waning and soon autumn – the season of dormancy – will descend. As I lay quietly, staring at the yellow butterflies in the pasture, floods of tears baptize the swing.

I wearily push myself up, plant my bare feet on the concrete porch floor, and walk away from the rocking wooden seat and stick figures on the bricks. It is time to leave the old porch swing with its sweet green smells and healing rhythms.

Goodbye old creaky-squeaky, creaky-squeaky, creaky-squeaky.

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This article has been read 1560 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/02/07
The descriptions are superb here in this narrative of family life and growing older.
Joanne Sher 08/02/07
You paint an amazingly detailed portrait of the story and scene with your eloquent words. I felt like I was right there. Excellent.
Betty Castleberry08/02/07
This is definitley my kind of story. I love the home spun feel, and I love that it is about an older person. Your descriptions are wonderful. Good job.
Charla Diehl 08/02/07
What a lovely story. I love porch swings and I was there with you watching your story unfold through your painted words.
Dara Sorensen08/03/07
Tears definitely lined my eyes when reading this captivating piece. It reminds me of my grandparents house--though it wasn't a farmhouse, the thirty plus years they lived and raised their family there echoed on each part of the property just like the memories in this story. Simply amazing ^_^
Laurie Glass 08/03/07
This definitely made me teary-eyed. The memories, the change, the grief. Makes me want to hug the author of this gripping piece.
Loren T. Lowery08/03/07
There is just so much to love in this absolutely prevocative, beautiful piece of writing! I don't want the MC to leave, I don't want things to change...however, if that place is for sale...maybe that is what is both sad and strangely hopeful about this article. Not to mention that those wonderful memories would never had been made had it not been for the MC's ability to create/see such beauty wherever life took her.
Lynda Schultz 08/03/07
Ohhhhhhhh, I feel this! Great writing.
Dee Yoder 08/04/07
I love the last line. It gives me a vision of what has been the back-drop music to a full life. Though it's sad, there's something good about having the kids grow up, no tragedies that cut short their hope, and seasons lived with love.
Phyllis Inniss08/07/07
This is prose written like poetry. Such beautiful imagery delights the mind and a feeling of nostalgia creeps in. The sadness at the end reminds us that all good things come to an end.
Marty Wellington 08/07/07
Loved this visual story that took me to another time and place. I love porch swings and it was a wonderful way to weave the story together.
Dianne Janak08/07/07
I kept hearing the song.> SOFTLY and TENDERLY Jesus is calling... calling for you and for me... Come Home.. Come Home.. all who are weary come home...

This was absolutely TENDER, SWEET, SAD, Wonderful... made me cry.. because memories of bygone days are so precious to all of us... thanks for this... Im going to savor it for a long time...LOVED IT immensely
Caitlynn Lowe08/08/07
Aww...so sad, but very touching!
Kristen Hester08/09/07
This is beautiful!!! It is so tender and sweet AND sad. I felt like I was sitting on the swing feeling the emotions of the MC. I could hear the swing. Great job and congratulations!
Seema Bagai 08/09/07
You painted a picture of the scene using beautiful words. Congrats.
Betsy Tacchella08/11/07
Beth, this is great writing, so heartfelt, so easy to identify with in a deep place, impactful ...a beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing your heart.