Yesterday's Magazette

1 – From The Front Porch

ymsummerporch2By Annie Laura Smith

The Southern environment that was my world as a child was more than a physical geographical location in Central Florida. It was a way of life defined by my maternal grandmother, Ida Mae Grubbs, and viewed from the weathered swing on our front porch.

Many of my early memories of my grandmother and our life in Ocala revolve around this porch swing. Our front porch spanned the entire width of our frame house. The wooden floor of the porch creaked to the step, and gray paint peeled from its surface. Clay pots of geraniums with exquisite red blossoms and velvet green leaves lined the porch railings next to the swing.

Other flowers bordered the porch in an array of equally brilliant colors because of my grandmother’s dedication to making our small corner of the world a little brighter through her love of flowers. Hollyhocks rose majestically in front of the railing. Their rows of towering pink flowers reached for the Florida sky.  Lilies grew by the side of the porch and bloomed before Easter. They heralded the coming of spring and the promises for renewal it always brings. The lilies’ fragile white blossoms were silhouetted against the purplish hues of the sturdier neighboring hydrangeas.

Our home’s convenient corner location was two blocks from “downtown.” It was a frequent stopping point for friends and neighbors who passed by on their way to town. Visits with my grandmother, who was loved for her spirit and Southern witticisms, brightened everyone’s day. She welcomed everyone to a brief respite on our porch swing so they would not be “all tuckered out” in their walk to town. I still remember the rhythmic sounds of the swing, coupled with my grandmother’s delightful laughter, as folks would swing back and forth while they shared remembrances and current news.

Others less fortunate stopped by for a free meal at my grandmother’s ample table. My grandmother was a firm believer in the Golden Rule and practiced this belief in all of her actions. When anyone was down on their luck — and this was not unusual in the late 1930s and early 1940s as many people who were out of work came to the South — she always saw to it that those who stopped at our house received a nourishing meal of steaming fresh vegetables, cornbread, and a refreshing glass of iced tea. Although these people often offered to work for food, this was not a requirement. She simply served her delicious Southern fare to these unexpected visitors with a smile and a kind word. Somehow she always managed to have enough food to share in spite of our very limited family resources.

These itinerants usually sat on the porch steps in the shade of the oleander tree as they ate their meal. They enthralled us children with stories about what dreams had brought them to the South, and especially to Central Florida. Her blue eyes would often be clouded by tears when these strangers left because of her concern about where they would get another meal or a kind word.

My grandmother taught me a lot about life in the twenty years she lived with us. I learned through her example what it means to survive adversity and yet maintain hope by going through life with an unconquerable spirit. The lesson that I learned from the view on our porch swing is what it meant to express true Southern hospitality to all who came our way — a legacy that I still cherish.

Annie Laura Smith is the author of three historical WWII novels (The Legacy of Bletchley Park, Will Paris Burn? and Saving da Vinci) for young readers published by OnStage Publishing ( Her YA contemporary novel, First Place, Love will be published later this year by Living Waters Publishing Company (


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