Inaugural column: A Porch Swing Point of View


Intro from the columnist: Many readers will recall the writings of Betty Norvell, who was a dear friend to me and my family for many years.  Like you, I looked forward to reading her columns which always offered intense insight with a humorous, light-hearted approach. Her writings gave me the inspiration to submit a few of my own essays to The Record Delta, which they were so gracious to accept and to offer me a twice monthly column.  I hope to bring some of the same smiles to my readers that Betty’s columns brought to me. 

I hope to uplift, inspire, and ignite thought and consideration to the happenings of our day-to-day lives, and to encourage a fresh look and a bold new attitude towards those happenings as I deliver to you my “porch swing point of view.”

Column: 

Do you have memories so vivid in your mind it is as if they happened only yesterday?  A wedding, the birth of a child or grandchild, a graduation, or perhaps even your first kiss? 

These memories are so ingrained we can replay them in our mind any time we’d like.  There are, however, other, perhaps less significant memories which are nonetheless chiseled into our memory just the same.  It does us good to revisit those from time to time as well.

A few cranks on the projector of my mind and I can clearly see a long set of concrete steps, weather-beaten floor boards, some peeling trellis, and a well-worn swing with a perpetually-warm seat cushion from my grandfather’s near constant presence. It is my grandparents’ front porch. 

In the distance, I can visualize fog rising from the valley—as we’ve all witnessed in the hills of West Virginia—giving the impression the mountains are ablaze. 

On a smaller scale, the same steamy ‘fog’ can be seen rising off Grandpa’s favorite coffee mug in the cool fall air.  The smell of the coffee mixed with morning dew is refreshing and inspiring.  I climb up on the porch swing by him and watch and listen.

Even though I can’t experience that again, I do, from time to time, scale those steps to a front porch in my mind as I vividly recall those countless hours spent there with my family’s patriarch.  And recently as I’ve reminisced on those times, it has brought to mind just what happened on that porch. 

From that cracked and peeling old swing, Grandpa held court.  With half the pomp and twice the substance of a G8 Summit, that shabby porch was the setting for solving the problems of the world; and though my grandfather was a strongly opinionated man, harsh words were never spoken. 

Notions and convictions were weighed and careful thought was given to the ideas and opinions of family, friends, and neighbors. 

I learned a lot from that porch, but I am not naïve enough to think my experience is unique. 

There was a time when front porches were gathering grounds for discussions of a range of topics, from politics to the weather.  Fishing tales were swapped alongside recipes and fresh-baked pies. 

Sure, I may be guilty of romanticizing it a bit, but many of us cherish those front porch memories right alongside weddings, births and graduations. 

And though the old swing may still get some exercise, I’m not sure the same can be said about our abilities to hold deep and meaningful discussions with the same open-mindedness and self-control. 

It seems we no longer take the time to even listen to the ideas of others, let alone take the time to consider them.  And in so refusing to listen and consider, we close the door on an open exchange of viewpoints like those aired on front porches for decades. 

Worse still, we live in a society of increasing apathy and indifference. 

Rather than engage in a fruitful discussion, we simply choose not to care—not to burden ourselves with such weighty and complex issues or to run the risk of offending another by our beliefs. 

I’m not so much advocating armchair politics as I am pleading for a resurgence of openness to the thoughts and ideas of others and an in-depth inspection into the happenings of our lives and their deeper meanings—which is how I can best summarize my column.

I hope you will read my short essays and discuss them with others—open the interchange of dialogue on some of life’s most important questions. 

I hope you will come to find my column as the spark needed for good conversation and for a renewed introspection into your life and the lives of others. 

And, finally, I hope you will begin to take a look at life from a “porch swing point of view.”

Nicholas Cutright is a Buckhannon native and graduate of Buckhannon-Upshur High School and West Virginia Wesleyan College with a B.S. degree in accounting.  He is a licensed funeral director and embalmer at his family’s funeral chapel, Heavner & Cutright, and he resides in Buckhannon with his wife April.

More In Opinion