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The calling of a screen door . . .

Ronda Rich's picture

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 About Flirting” and “The Town That Came A-Courtin’.” Her newest book is “What Southern Women Know about Faith.” She lives near Gainesville, Ga. Sign up for her weekly newsletter at www.rondarich.com.]


BHH's picture

Thoughts like these have occurred to me many times. Surely many others can relate but most people will never experience the "screen door syndrome".


Memories beautifully shared.

screen doors. My memories of screen doors are of busted out screens covered with moths and other bugs, broken and squeaky hinges, and warped frames. You have to be rich reminisce about poverty.

Growing up in Eastern NC with hot summers and zero air conditioning, I know a lot about screen doors--and windows--but for the life of me, I just can't seem to get sentimental about one. Maybe I could if someone paid me to write about it--and if I couldn't be truthful, I could sure make something up!

SPQR's picture

I remember folks plugging holes with cotton to keep the bugs out. Unless the past is really horrible memories tend to drift towards the pleasanter side. August and July in Georgia without A/C is something I manage to block from my memory banks.

I don't think our covenants here would allow that now.

Nor, one single light bulb hanging from the ceiling on some kind of twisted cloth insulated cord. Oil lamps sitting around when the power went out which was often.

Linoleum kitchen and dining room floors along with a waxed table cloth and no electric dishwashers along with a wood burning stove and oven, and spring water, cold only, have been improved upon, but the cost comparison is something like $5 to a current $500 a month!

If the weather was good and no hill or mountain was in the way, the old AM only tubed radio could be listened to occasionally.

A wringer washer using caught rain water along with home-made lye soap got the cow manure out of the bib overalls.

carbonunit52's picture

Oh come on AHG, can't you get just a little dewy eyed when you remember your (choose one: mom, grandmom, aunt) emphatically stating "If I hear that screen door SLAM one more time, I'm going to......". The streched out spring, the flies being rewarded for their patience and gettting in the house, the spring doing its thing, and then the noise most often associated with young boys running in and out of the house in those bygone days: SLAM. Damm, almost makes me want to have a tea party.

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