It’s a rite of spring when we haul the porch decor out of winter storage. The outdoor carpets go down, the hanging baskets go up, the side table gets put in place and little trinkets from the seaside get sprinkled on every surface because I miss the ocean.
Our porch furniture gets used a lot and three years seems to be how long it takes for the stuffing to unfluff and the fabric to grunge on the rocker cushions. This was a third spring; time to go to the home decor store.
I have a love/hate relationship with home decor stores: I love picking out new things; I hate the amount of control it takes to not be distracted by all the other shiny stuff. I know my weaknesses, so I took my daughter with me. She’s a frugal college student who asks the questions I’m not mature enough to ask myself.
“Do we really need that?”
“Don’t we already have something like?”
Finding the replacement cushions didn’t take long. In theory, the decorating was complete, and I could get onto the important business of using the porch in the way that the good Lord intended: sit on my tush, sip icy beverages and read a book or count fireflies.
List complete, I led us on a meandering route “just to see stuff” I promised. The aisles of this store are well-organized by theme: Dragonflies in one, lake house in another…beach, mermaids, even flamingos — my usual downfall — but none of them seemed to hold power over my checkbook. I was feeling in control.
And then we hit the solar light aisle. Hello, Impulse Buy Voice, where ya been?
“Mom, do we need those?” My 5-foot-2-inch, strawberry blond conscious asked as I studied a box of lights.
“Need?” I parroted her question while mentally visualizing the strands of clear, round bulbs on the porch. Would it look like the midway of a fair?
Was looking like the midway of a fair bad?
Then I spotted the solar powered lantern. The nighttime midway mental image was replaced by a daytime one of the 12 inches tall, aqua pottery lantern with daisy shaped cut outs sitting cheerfully on the side table. It quickly went in the cart.
Before I could add more lights, better judgment, in the form of a young woman in a sundress, took over and, feeling like a team, we navigated the shortest path to the check-out without stopping.
She’s so wise.
When did she become so wise? So mature?
As she gets further into college, our relationship is changing and time together feels different, less parenting and more pal-ing. I knew it would.
I was told by friends further down the parenting path. Heck, I remember it happening to me when I was in college. But knowing it will happen and feeling the magic of it happening are two very different things.
That night I went outside after dark. The aqua lantern sitting in a tray of seashells had looked like I had imagined in the daylight…but at night it was transformation surprise. At night the interior aqua shone bright against the almost invisible exterior and sunbeam shaped light splashed in varying strengths off nearby surfaces.
It was like one of those optical illusions: It’s an old woman, of course it’s an old woman, it can’t be anything but an old woman…wait! I see the young woman! How did I not see that before? In art it’s called using negative and positive space, but on my porch? I call it magical.
It’s a daughter, of course it’s a daughter, it can’t be anything but a daughter…wait! I see a remarkable woman and she’s rocking on the porch next to me in the blue glow of the lantern, counting fireflies.
Susan Vollenweider lives in the Northland. To listen to the women’s history or history-based media recap podcasts that she co-hosts or to read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.