Tuesday, September 2, 2014

You Can Never Have Too Much Happiness

My oldest sister bought a house built in 1913 in LaPorte, to turn it into a quilt retreat. Steve and I ran to Houston on Saturday for the day and spent the second half of it with my sister and her husband. Even though I have been following the progress on her blog, it was fun to see the house in person. As we finished up the exterior tour and headed into the house, I paused for a moment and looked toward the end of the porch and said to sister, "This porch reminds me so much of Granny's porch."

Our grandmother had a craftsman style home and on the big family gathering days, we children were relegated to the outdoors, as that was the best space left over to accommodate me, my siblings, and my 20-odd cousins. That porch was not only a long dining table, but also a grand castle, a steamship, a pirate island, a grocery store, a lookout tower...it had possibilities as endless as the summer days were long. The expanse of the covered porch and the placement of the house in relation to the sun's exposure guaranteed shade at all times and I don't recall it ever being a hot spot.

It grew in me, I guess, a deep respect and unshakeable adoration for a good 'ole porch. Having lived in Texas my whole life, I am savvy enough to know that if I want to be outside half of the year, I need to build or cultivate some kind of shade. We have been blessed - or cursed - to build from the ground up four houses. Each time, I have been meticulous in selecting the house, selecting the lot, working with the builder...and each time I have factored in the setting and rising sun and its impact on the house. 

When we built our current home, we absolutely lucked out. The silhouette of our home casts a complete shadow on the backyard every afternoon beginning around 4 p.m. It is really a sweet little treasure. In 2012 when we expanded our back porch by 1,000 square feet, we nixed plans to build an arbor, realizing it would cover up the view of the nighttime stars, and the house would give us the needed evening shade for gatherings and dinners.

We have really loved that back porch. It's a quiet escape in the morning to watch the sun come up, while you sip your snicker doodle coffee. It's a relaxing perch from which one can watch Truman chase rabbits during the day. It's an outdoor living room in the evening when we all come home from work and, previously, the boys from school, where we can sit and gather and soak in the freshness of the outdoors, which we all seem to love and need regular daily Vitamin D doses. A good day to me is one in which I have spent a good amount of time on my back porch.

When the boys were home and in their driving years, Sunday afternoons shifted from time spent with us to time spent with friends. It was a change we didn't relish, but it was one we could not fight. We could see the value in their development of community with friends from their youth group. The tectonic shift in how we spent the one day my husband almost always has off was one to which we did not easily adapt, but adapt we did. We considered it preparation for the looming college launch years. You loosen the strings long before you let them go.

The change in our together time made us appreciate the moments that we were together all the more. Sunday lunch shared every week can become common and more a process of remember whose turn it is to pick the entree. Sunday lunch shared 6-8 times a year becomes a treasured jewel, more about who you're with than where you are, the undisputed peak of the week. And usually, when the boys would eat lunch with us, they would not go back out. 

June 2013 began the countdown to Philip leaving. He nestled in with us more toward the end with deliberate cutting of local ties and, in my heart I believe, his own process of saying goodbye to the life he had known, as he hunkered down in his room more often than he had in a few years. It is interesting to contrast and compare their leaving processes now, but that is another story for another day. 

This sunny afternoon found us all together, and I happened to have my DSLR with me, knowing that this day together was one of those jewels. There is no grand story here. Just three of the photos I shot that day, capturing the vitality of my sons' beautiful faces, their penchant for sitting near each other, their endearing and effortless smiles. They are such a complimentary pairing. You could put them up against any classic - peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, Batman and Robin - and they could hold their own. They laugh so much together. They crack each other up. They crack us up, too. 

It has always been such a joy to see them interact. I have hundreds of photos of them laughing together. They are each precious to me. My only regret is not having the ability to capture their wit on paper, or video. I could not ever begin that undertaking - it would require me to record them constantly and they would never go for that. Mercy - getting a smiling photo of Andrew is a task that is daunting enough already. 

As I looked at photos on Sunday to scrap, these prints called out to me. And as I paired them with paper, this little Summer Fresh line seemed to be, like my boys, the perfect pairing. One of the little tags for the paper set proclaimed, "You can never have too much happiness." As I look at these boys laughing on my back porch, and smile and weep at the memory, I know that little tag nailed it. 

There will be more stories, more laughter, more moments together on the back porch. They will become jewels that are even more precious. As I FaceTime with my sons now in Nashville and in Denver, and try to glimpse their essence through all 27" of my iMac screen, I know it is true. You can never have too much happiness.

You Can Never Have Too Much Happiness ~ Back Porch Stories ~ June 2013

Paper: Simple Stories, Cosmo Cricket

1 comment:

  1. Another tender story and lovely layout, Penny. Some of my favourite summer moments are spent on the porch as well.