A few weeks ago I went back to Tennessee to visit my sister. She lives with her husband on a 400-acre farm about an hour from Nashville, in a two-story house which his great-great-great (maybe more) grandparents on his mother’s side built somewhere in the 1800’s. It’s been modernized considerably, but it still has painted brick walls and a large front porch with posts. The windows are tall and narrow, as was the fashion back then. I suppose the cost of glass had something to do with that, too.
When you’re inside the house, you could be in a suburb anywhere. With air conditioners, ceiling fans, a dishwasher, a media room with recliners, satellite TV and internet, and cellphones, you’d never know you were in the country. But sitting on the front porch brought it home to me.
The porch is wide and long, with comfortable furniture and hanging plants. The yard and porch are shaded by several ancient trees, oaks and pecans. The gravel driveway winds under the trees to the road, less than a quarter-mile away. The distance is far enough that I couldn’t hear the sound of traffic, and there didn’t seem to be much other than the occasional tractor or farm truck. My brother-in-law’s tractor shed is in a field next to the yard, but the fields they farm are across the road, so there was no sound of tractors or mechanical work.
Sitting on the front porch with my sister, feeling the breeze, the only sound was the rustle of summer leaves, green and supple. We watched a rabbit hop slowly across the yard from one covered spot to another, wary of hawks or a neighbor dog. A bobwhite called from the field. Later in the day I walked to the fence on one side and spotted a snake in the grass, curving its shiny black body to move swiftly in a straight line, intent on some mission under one of the oak trees.
Hearing the wind in the trees took me back to evenings on Aunt Lou and Uncle Floyd’s porch, listening to them talk with Mother and Daddy and tell stories. That porch was on a wood-plank dogtrot house, not at all like my brother-in-law’s family mansion. But the smell of cut grass, the birds calling and the wind in the trees will always take me back to childhood.