At some point, people have to let things go. Not all things, but some – particularly the things that can no longer stand the test of time.
About two weeks ago, I “converted” a wooden glider into a swing for the front porch. It was probably 20 years old – one of the things from my maternal grandma I’ve never wanted to let go.
But this glider-turned-swing had a wonderful story of how it came to rest on its frame next to my garage and later suspended from two hooks mounted to the front porch ceiling. First, my grandmother had it. Everyone – my aunts, uncles, parents, cousins – sat on it when they visited her apartment in an assisted living complex.
I don’t think she did much to protect it from the harsh weather of northwestern Pennsylvania. When she came to live with my parents, sister and me during my junior year of high school, it was rotting in several areas and hadn’t had paint stick to it in years. I fixed it – keeping as many original boards as possible and replacing the rotting lumber with treated wood and pine. I painted it white and helped my dad carry it to the back yard.
It stayed there until my parents sold this house in New York. When they bought another, the glider made its way to their permanent campsite, where it supported the asses of practically all of the asses in my family (They‘re not really asses – but I couldn’t resist). Finally – three years ago and probably 20 years into its life – the glider moved south and was reunited with me following a brief stint in my parents’ new back yard in Greenwood, South Carolina.
By then it barely looked like it did when belonged Grandma Appleby. Not only was it heavier from the treated lumber I used about ten years earlier, folks at my parents’ camp had added a second, more inclined back to make the glider more comfortable to the old codgers frequenting the campground. It had also been painted the color of poop from a dog that ate cheap food an hour earlier.
So it sat in the lean-to off of my garage. And sat. And sat. Finally it occurred to me to utilize the hooks on the front porch that came with the house. They were already there – finding studs to put those in would have been the most difficult part of the job – and I wanted a porch swing anyway. It just made sense. So I purchased a chain and mounted the thing.
“If you fix it up and paint it, I’ll buy some cushions for it,” my mom said upon seeing the filthy contraption hanging from the porch ceiling. “Then I’ll sit in it.”
Fine, I thought. It did look odd on the porch, colored dog poop brown and resembling a sixth-grader’s wood shop project. It would look better painted to match the blue on the American flag mounted nearby. So my dad and I carried it to the garage a few days later to start with a good pressure washing.
The water peeled the paint off – and ripped through some integral boards that were part of the frame.
“We can fix those,” my dad said, turning off the pressure washer to inspect the damage. I was skeptical, but began pulling out the wood screws. They came out far too easily, as did the eye bolts the chain hooked to – which basically supported the entire swing.
We began pulling the boards attached to the frame. They were rotted. When we got to the frame, it was a disaster. It looked as though the vinyl paint was the only thing keeping the boards intact. That swing could have collapsed at any moment while I was sitting on it with Kalista a few nights earlier.
But that evening with Kalista on the swing made me want to make whatever repairs were necessary. Here was a chair some of my favorite relatives – some of whom had died years ago – once sat in to watch the birds with Grandma. I remembered fixing it in the garage of the home in which I was raised; it was the first “real” project of my life. Of course, the swing had also observed some of the best “family” times one could imagine during its time at camp.
“It’s done,” I thought to myself. “Let it go.”
I told my dad after some thought that by the time we finished replacing all the wood that was rotten, it wouldn’t really be the same swing. It had a good life – lasted 20 years as a wooden swing – but it was time to get rid of it.
“Mom’s going to be pissed,” he said. We agreed to retain the swing’s remains for a few days so she could see for herself that it was beyond repair. We still don’t know if it passed her inspection.
I’ll admit it was a bit sad to look at the old swing in the bottom of a dumpster at the Greenwood County landfill yesterday morning. I had stopped by a hardware store to pick up an unfinished porch swing Kalista and I could paint.
Nonetheless, I was sure Grandma understood. We’d given it all we could – and she knows we’ll continue to think of her every day even without the swing to remind us.
She’s probably sitting in it right now …