Tuesday, October 4, 2011
A Place I Love
When I was a child, my favorite place to be was sitting around an old cable wheel on a front porch in North Jersey.
The cable wheel was a huge, varnished and peeling, make shift table with a hole in the center large enough to lose a soda can down. It sat in between the front windows that looked into the living room of a small blue house with cream-colored shutters. It was surrounded by three folding chairs.
I can remember sitting on my knees and holding myself up on the table with my elbows on summer afternoons. From my vantage point, I would greet the mailman and say a friendly hello to the neighbors walking their dogs or sitting on their porches. Occasionally, I would hop down and work off some of my childhood energy by running a stick against the picket fence running along the front of the house, or watering the flowerbeds.
But to six year old me, that table was the greatest place in the world.
I would sit there for hours with an old man, eating pistachios and secretly stashing the shells in the hole in the center of the wheel. Every now and then, I would climb on the table to peer down the hole and see how full it was. We would get caught once in a while and my grandmother would holler at us to “Stop that.” “That’s what garbage cans are for,” she would say. We would just laugh.
As soon as she wasn’t looking, the old man would always stuff the first shells he emptied into the void, letting me know it was ok.
I would sit with him for hours. He would tell jokes and make faces. We would share stories and laugh together. Sometimes he would take me to the park nearby, or for a walk to the bakery, but the afternoons always started and ended on the porch around the wheel.
When my grandfather got sick, my grandparents moved to a home requiring less work, and they sold the blue house with the picket fence and the quaint front porch. And my wheel.
At the time I didn’t realize how much it mattered. I had moved before and thought nothing of it, or the fact that they had left the old makeshift cable wheel table behind.
Now, sixteen years later, I know what a difference that seemingly insignificant piece of furniture made on my life. That dried out and peeling old hunk of wood that left varnish chips stuck to my arms was my first lesson in what it meant to be part of a community. It was a lesson in good-natured fun. It taught me to laugh and to love. And it continues to be a place I can go when I need a smile or a little pick me up.