by Rachelle Furney
I’ve always wanted a porch swing. The kind that you would sink deep into, and your feet wouldn’t reach the ground. They would dangle. You’d twirl your ankle, clap your flip flop to your foot, and critique the pedicure you got last Wednesday from Perfect Nails downtown. The swing would be white and hang from chains that rattled when you got off and rattled again when you sat down—this time with a cappuccino in hand. You’d skim the foam off the top with a spoon, and smile when the metal warmed your tongue. Yes, this was the kind of swing you could enjoy a cappuccino on while you watched your children play in the front yard. Your youngest, Lily, would be by the gate picking petals off daisies and feeding them to the pug. She was the cutest. The twins would be nearby, spying through the gate at the kids next door.
With each child occupied, you’d open your book and settle in to read on that swing. You’d find your spot, somewhere in the middle, that you dog-eared last year. You’d swipe your phone to turn off notifications, only to swipe them on again when you remember the contractor who’s fixing your deck hadn’t called back yet with a quote. You check your email and realize you forgot to place your hot lunch order. God, they send so many reminders. You’d visit another site to order sushi, hotdogs, and Taco Express for the twins. Lily is gluten-free, and the Parent Advisory Council still hasn’t adjusted the menu. You’d have to chat with Patty, again.
You would pout about the PAC president on that swing. Patty should be more understanding of dietary restrictions; her daughter was the reason the whole school was now egg-free. You could no longer make a sandwich with mayo for your oldest twin, Jamison. It’s a piss-off too, because you’d finally found a school lunch item that he didn’t label as “weird.” You had even tried an egg-free version, but he’d complain it smelled weird and made the lettuce taste sour.
When you skipped the mayo altogether, the sandwich made a return trip home in his lunch kit. And poor Jamison would get an earful. You’re wasting food. You need to eat your lunch. Do you know how many kids are starving? So you’d spend a full afternoon on that swing, reading blogs on healthy lunches and filling your Instacart with every possible mayo-free lunch solution. But you never end up checking out—you’d do a better in-store shop.
You’d feel guilty on that swing. You had tried so hard to get pregnant for two years. Yet, nothing. You’re still surprised that you were able to get Cole to test the strength of his swimmers, which were fine. Excellent even. He was never the issue. You had taken injections, stopped CrossFit, and cried so much—dreaming of having a child. Yet when your dream came true, this is how you behaved? Hell, you even got two at once. Maybe I can buy Jamison a new Lego set, or a Slurpee from 7-Eleven. We’ll spend a whole day playing games together in the kitchen. Maybe go for a walk. You’d decide that’s what you’ll do as you grab the blanket off the back of the swing. You need the comfort to cuddle the words of regret away.
In the morning, the kids would bicker on that swing as they waited to be driven to school. The promises you made last night were now forgotten and replaced with low mutterings. Let them freeze. You did your part. Natural consequences if they won’t wear their jackets. You had all the right to be mad. After all, you spent at least a hundred bucks on each jacket that you know you’ll end up selling for ten bucks online—still in perfect condition. As soon as you got home, you would Google the best kid-friendly salons in town. You don’t care anymore—Lily was getting her hair cut. If she’s not going to brush it, she doesn’t get to keep it. You’re not going to put up with another morning of screaming—literal screaming—over hair and jackets.
Another day, the neighbour would catch you off guard on that swing. Whatcha reading? Badly tanned Tori had a talent of appearing on your porch the moment you finally sat down. You would humour her and invite her to swing with you. She was the eyes and ears of the neighbourhood, and always had a story. She would tell you about Jim, from down the road, who tripped. He’d been lying on the sidewalk, bleeding from his head—for god knows how long—until some dog walker discovered him and called an ambulance. He’s home now, and it sounds like he’s doing fine. Tori brought him a casserole, so his wife didn’t have to cook that night. You’d check your watch and tell Tori that you had to go pick up the kids and figure out dinner yourself.
After putting potatoes on the stove and vacuuming goldfish cracker crumbs off the living room floor, through the living room window, you’d notice everything wrong with that swing. And when your husband got home from work, you would insist he check the chains—they seemed uneven. Do we still have white paint? He might as well do some touch-ups while he’s at it. Mom! Quick—the water! You’d forgotten about the potatoes, so you’d rush to the stove to take the pot off. After draining the potatoes, you’d realize you were out of milk, just like the white paint. And you’d think back to that Instacart you’d loaded earlier in the week and have instant regret for not checking out. There was no way you were driving down to the store to get groceries now—once dinner was done, there would be no time. Lily needed help with her reading, the twins needed showers, and you remembered that you’d stripped their beds this morning and hadn’t put the new sheets on.
Instead, you’d watch your husband try and fix that swing until baths and bedtime. You had encouraged him to be handier. He even bought a drill and wrench. But as you sipped wine and watched him check each link, it was clear that he had no clue what he was doing. Being handy wasn’t his strength; he was a numbers guy. He’d always been good with numbers and keeping the family on a budget. That’s why you didn’t own a designer bag like Tori. And even though you know it’s superfluous to want a luxury handbag, you couldn’t help lusting over the latest designer cross-body. You deserved one too. Maybe even more than Tori. How’s it going, hun? You’d ask after your last sip. At this point, you wished you’d hired someone or fixed it yourself.
After a two-hour struggle getting the kids to bed, you would have your third glass of wine on that swing. Finally, me time. You’d miss the sky slowly blending its blues of the day into hues of orange, red, and pink as you checked your phone. The scrolling only stopped when your thumb would cramp. Eleven o’clock! The sky now midnight black. You would glance up at the stars through fuzzy eyes, still not believing the hour. Another evening gone. But you can’t motivate yourself to get off that swing and go inside to wipe the day off your face, knowing you’ll have to put it back on tomorrow and fight again about jackets and hair.
You’d think about leaving, on that swing. Fuck it! I’m done! You’re too tired and so far from anyone you thought you’d become—designer, painter, realtor, entrepreneur—god, you were going to be spectacular. And you were going to travel, finally learn to speak French, and maybe even pick up a third language. And you’d have been smart. You wouldn’t just read headlines; on Tuesdays, you’d go to book club and gab about the Greats.
But that night, Lily would come crying to you on that swing. She’d tell you there was an accident in her dream, that someone got killed. And she’d tell you that she was scared and wanted you to live forever. You would tell her it was only a dream and pat the swing beside you. And when she sat, the chains would rattle and you would hold her close to your side, closer than you had ever held her before. You would stroke her hair until her tears stopped.
Look at the stars, Mommy! Can you see them?
Yes, baby, I can see them clearly.
I’ve always wanted a porch swing.