There is something about the banging of a screen door — soft, sweet and low — that warms the innards of my being.
Perhaps it is that it takes me back through a journey of memories to a time when everyone I loved was still alive. That is, I suppose, the greatest loss of innocence for me, though there have been many. For I failed to realize then that so many folks I cherished would all too soon become mere memories decorated by names etched in stone. Mortality was something I simply did not understand nor cared to comprehend.
Throughout my childhood, there are scattered memories of softly banging screen doors, ones that usually had a slight squeaking from the aging spring that controlled the motion of the door.
"It's comin' up a cloud," Mama would say. "Run out there quick and get the clothes off the line."
I'd dart out the kitchen door, throwing the screen open so fast and hard that it hit the side of the house, then hear it close with a loud thump behind me.
Every night, I'd hear the squeak of the spring as the door opened and knew that Daddy was home before he turned the knob and pushed open the heavy wood door.
There was not a spring or summer morning that Mama did not push open with a nudge of her right elbow, the screen door leading to the side porch and tote out a pan of dishwater. Dedicated to her Scotch-Irish upbringing, she did not waste a drop of anything. The discarded liquid was used to water her flowers, most especially her prized red roses.
Growing up in a house without air conditioning, I recall those screen doors were vital in letting in the gentle breezes as well as the smell of fragrant honeysuckle and the occasional scent of cow manure. Since the house was brick, the yard was well shaded with mighty trees and since the small, cooling river was only 50 or 60 yards from the back door, we were often cool enough, with the exception of a few miserable days in late July. To this day, I still prefer minimum air conditioning, choosing instead open windows, ceiling fans and, yes, screen doors.
Sometime during my young adulthood, Mama and Daddy gave up those trusty screen doors, trading them in for more efficient storm doors. I remember strongly my heart's sadness when I visited and found the shining aluminum and glass that had replaced wood and screen.
I moaned about it a bit, to which Mama unsympathetically replied, "Aw, hush. This is much better."
But I've gotten the last word. I suppose you knew I would. Now that I own the house, I make the decisions. Finally. After the unfortunate water line break and the subsequent reconstruction, I righted that wrong my parents had done when they cruelly removed the screen doors. It took five months, a nice contractor, a helpful insurance company and untold hours of mine to reconstruct the house. It felt like the renovation had become my full-time job.
"We're going to have to replace these outside doors," said the contractor and the insurance adjuster agreed.
Immediately, I saw my chance to rid my beloved childhood home of those horrid storm doors and replace them with the appropriate screened ones, happy to pay any additional expense. I laugh now at my seriousness in picking out the perfect doors. You would have thought I was selecting a fine crystal chandelier for Carnegie Hall. To me, though, it was more important than that.
Each one of those doors brings a big smile to my face when I look at it. And each time, I walk out the door and hear the stretch of the spring, and the thump of the door as it closes, my heart sighs contently.
There's nothing like hearing the echoes of a happy childhood.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should). Visit her website to sign up for her weekly newsletter. Her column appears Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.