Weekend essay: Moments on a porch

Weekend essay: Moments on a porch

The bustle and the hustle of the afternoon rush hour finally has subsided on Catalpa Place Flats.

And from the broad front porch built nearly 30 years ago, the more important sights, sounds and smells of life are coming back to the forefront.

There’s the whir of the ceiling fan. It’s dissipating the late spring heat that summer will claim as its own in a few short days.

But it’s also helping to spread the sweet and striking Stratocaster guitar stylings of The Shadows, an old British band — just loud enough but not too loud — all along the winding-down street.

Then there’s that certain squeak with each back push of the glider. Some folks might run to apply a bit of graphite or oil to remedy what they’d consider an annoyance.

But that squeak will go unremedied. For, odd as it seems, it evokes memories of the smell of the old vinyl-covered cushions on a grandparents’ Ohio glider of 50 years ago.

And speaking of smells, a brief gust of wind just delivered the spittin’ image of Granny lifting the top off her pressure cooker and releasing the aroma of a just-finished pot of chicken and noodles.

Somebody in this neighborhood deserves the highest kudo for such “old-school” cooking.

A sudden scratching sound brings the reminiscer back to reality. Two squirrels are scurrying up the front-yard silver maple. They’re looking for the seed and nut block that used to hang from a sturdy hook.

But regular daylight raids by a far-too-friendly raccoon has ended that practice. The squirrels will have to look elsewhere for their snack.

In the distance, a rumble burgeons. It’s not a gathering storm but a short-line freight train entering the Castle Shannon Valley. As the rumble grows, there are a series of quick horn blasts, then two longer, as it approaches a crossing.

And from the Department of You Had to Be Here to Believe It, just as the echoes of the last blast fade, the first strains of The Shadows’ rendition of “Trains and Boats and Planes” begin to play.

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).