It was a simple green front porch. It sat in front of Mrs. Anita Larson’s house on Johnson Street. On that porch sat six simple wooden rocking chairs painted thick with years of coats of white paint. There was also a mixture of potted plants, including the largest ferns I had ever seen. There was nothing spectacular about the house or the porch.
Mrs. Anita Larson became my neighbor when my parents bought the house that belonged to my mother’s parents after they passed away. I was seven years old. I found Mrs. Larson to be a bit scary at first. She was an elderly lady who lived alone, wore her silvery-white hair in two long braids, and spoke and laughed loudly. I was an introverted child and very much an observer. I said little while taking in volumes. She accepted my quiet ways and we became friends.
I was soon to learn about the magic of Larson’s front porch. Mrs. Larson sat on her front porch in the rocking chair nearest her front door every morning after watering her plants and flowers. Anyone in the neighborhood was invited to sit on a rocker and visit with “Larson”. She had stories to tell and compliments to give. It was always a lovely visit. When morning was slipping away, Larson would retire into her home to eat her lunch and take her midday nap. She would return in the late afternoon once again to that glorious front porch and visit with the neighborhood until evening. No matter how hot or humid the day was, Larson’s porch was comfortable and cool. It was like stepping onto an island, far away from the world and it’s problems.
I sat on that porch hundreds of times. We talked about her family, her husband who had passed away years before our visits began, and stories from her childhood. We talked about the times, happenings in the news, family problems, accomplishments and failures. We talked about life, about death, and about God. She was always cheerful, positive, and uplifting. She only gave compliments; she was never critical. She was food for my soul.
As a child, I would take a break from playing every now and then to sit on Larson’s porch and chat about school. She was always so proud of any accomplishments her neighborhood children made. As a teenager, I would seek Larson’s approval on a new hairstyle or fashion. If I were feeling down in the dumps, a trip to Larson’s front porch was just what the doctor ordered.
I shared Larson and her front porch with my three sisters and the rest of the neighborhood. Mrs. Larson was ageless. She could visit with anyone, no matter his or her age. She called me and my sisters her “adopted grandchildren”. She had only one son and one grandson; both of whom lived far away. It must have given her great comfort to share in our lives and experiences.
Through the years we kids grew up and our lives and the neighborhood changed. Mrs. Larson had to chain her rocking chairs and ferns to her porch railings when someone stole one of her magnificent plants. She no longer wore her hair long and braided, but styled short. Only one thing remained constant, the security and comfort of those front porch visits.
When I became engaged, I walked my future husband over to Larson’s front porch for them to meet. After leaving home, I would return to the familiar porch with my children and sit in the rockers and visit with Larson. It was like coming home. My children were just as taken with that porch and with Larson as I had been.
Mrs. Anita Larson eventually passed away. The magical, mystical porch became empty.
It was hard to drive by the house and see the rockers and plants gone. It was simply a green, front porch. It belonged to another owner, someone who did not know the magic it held and the conversations it heard.
For years I longed for that front porch. I just wanted one more chance to sit in one of those oversized rocking chairs and smile at Larson and visit. It took a very long time for me to realize that those people we hold dear are always with us. I have only to close my eyes and I am sitting on Larson’s front porch….
It’s a hot summer day, but the porch and is cool and green. Larson is sitting next to me fanning herself with a large cardboard fan and she is smiling….
As I open my eyes, I find I am smiling too.
The magic is not gone; it lives inside me. She is still food for my soul!