Porches

by Brittney Smith

Bug zapper, cracked brick floor, and a dusty fan that hummed above our conversations. Littered with potted ferns and wrought-iron furniture, once black but painted yellow after my grandmother got sick. In South Louisiana, my grandparents’ back porch was home to crawfish boils, Easter egg hunts, and after-dinner conversations about politics and black people while by grandfather pulled off his belt to relieve his full stomach. It was always hot. Steamy, sticky; mosquitoes slipping down your arm in sweat when you tried to slap them away hot. Statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary graced the corners— welcomed outside of the home just as much as they were venerated inside. After Sunday Mass, family gathered on the porch to sip coffee and slip into an early morning nap. Thick, dark, black coffee. The kind that sticks to your insides and makes you rethink the meaning of life while your eyes grow heavy and you melt into a soft sleep shaded from the searing sun.

What I remember is this: When I was six or seven, my grandmother gave me a statue of Mary that doubled as a pseudo-mood ring. The statue had little crystals on it that changed colors depending on my behavior. If I was good, the crystals would be blue and beautiful, but if I was bad, they would turn black and ugly. My grandmother would sometimes rock me in the swing on the back porch and tell me to be good for the pretty lady, the Blessed Mother. The woman who loves me. Whispering softly, she would gently pat my back in a soothing rhythm as we swayed back and forth. Rocking on the porch, close to my grandmother, so close I could feel her warm sweat, and I almost wasn’t sure if the lady who loves me, the beautiful lady, was someone far away or the lady holding me in her arms.

Brittney Smith is a recent graduate of the Graduate Theological Union/Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA. This summer, she will say goodbye to redwood trees and return to Texas, the motherland, to begin work as a chapel and event coordinator. She still sometimes confuses her grandmother for the Blessed Mother.

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3 Responses

  1. Brittney, it brought tears to my eyes to see the picture of you with my beautiful Aunt Lovelyn and to “hear” you recall those special memories.

  2. Brittney this loving reflection of your grandmother and the Blessed virgin is very beautiful and powerful, just like you. It touched my soul, just like you.

    My love

  3. Wow, this was a beautiful, vivid, touching description! Thank you for sharing, Brittney!

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