Tales from the front porch

The best stories were told on the front porch in the evening. Grandmama and Mama would sit in the rocking chairs, weary from the day’s activities. They’d sip glasses of iced tea.

We children would run through the dusky evening with our Mason jars, home to lightning bugs for a brief time.

There would be holes punched in the lids of the jars with an ice pick from the kitchen.

I remember being very careful when we punched the holes so the bugs could breathe.olivia6-25 Page 4A.indd

We’d run and laugh and when tired out, would come back to the front porch and sit on the steps.

And there we’d hear family stories, told and retold over the years.

There was one about our great Aunt Bonner, who was Grandmama’s older sister. She’d grown up in the house we lived in that was home to five generations of our family. She had a wicked sense of humor, and there were no dull moments when she was on the premises.

She was the one sent to the Maxton depot to pick up Aunt Mary Bellamy, who was coming to visit from Wilmington.

Aunt Mary was very proper and very proud. So instead of taking the buggy to pick up Aunt Mary, Sister Bonner hitched the mules to the wagon and brought Aunt Mary home to Sycamore Hill in a style she was unaccustomed to.

Sister Bonner was the one who’d hide in the graveyard in the evening draped in a sheet and would rise from behind the tombstones to startle anyone passing through. She was incorrigible.

Sister Bonner would come to visit when I was a child. She was a very old lady but lively, with a quick wit.

Grandmama said Sister Bonner was always up to something. Our great Aunt Olivia, the baby of that generation, had long, thick, wavy blond hair that came down below her waist. She could sit on it.

But Sister Bonner thought a trim would keep Aunt Olivia cooler in the summer. Or so she said. So Sister Bonner took the scissors out into the yard, sat Aunt Olivia down and cut her hair so short she looked almost bald.

Grandmama said all the girls wore 12 petticoats in the winter and six in summer. But even so encumbered, by our standards, they pursued lots of activities. They rowed the canoe down the river, rode side-saddle, swam, danced and played instruments. Friends would come to visit and stay for weeks.

Music was a big part of their lives, and they could all play and sing. Aunt Olivia was said to have a beautiful voice, and Grandmama would accompany her on the piano. As children, when Aunt Olivia would visit, she’d sing to us. She had a repertoire for children’s ears — “Froggy Went a Courting,” “String Beans and Irish Potatoes” and “I Wish I Was Single Again,” one of our favorites.

Summer was always a time of long visits from relatives. And they were a family of talkers.

We children were an almost forgotten audience on the front porch, hearing about the memories they all had from growing up at Sycamore Hill, where summer went on forever and watermelons were plentiful.

Old times there are not forgotten.