“It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy.” The long awaited warm weather season has arrived in Upstate NY and folks are soaking in the sun while enjoying time spent outside. One of my favorite places to kick back is on our porch swing. While listening to the birds and taking in the breeze, so many summer memories return to me from my childhood. By relaxing for just a short time we allow our minds and bodies to detach and reminisce.

Growing up, our family didn’t have a porch swing. It was while visiting Grandpa and Grandma’s house that we discovered all the fun we’d been missing. Piling on to over-capacity, the swing would go as wild and high as possible. For me it was love at first sight and was one of the first purchases for our home. My love runs deeper as the tab to the website blogs is fondly called “From The Porch Swing.”

The porch swing was just one of the many reasons to visit our Grandparents. The annual family reunion was almost as exciting! Every June Mom would pack up the car as we headed to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania to spend the weekend with our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It was a special treat as our family lived out of the area. As the 1952 Chevy station wagon made its way to the keystone state we’d ask the familiar question: “How much longer is it?” 

Jordan & Gram on the porch swing
Jordan & Kait on the porch swing

Upon arrival, we’d head to the backyard where all the activities took place. At that time, it seemed like Grandpa’s yard was so much bigger. How is it that as we age, things from our younger years appear much smaller? To me, his lawn was the size of a football field. Long lines of picnic tables were dressed with red and white checked cloths while off to the side were “never ending” stations for the buffet.

Coming from German decent, our relatives were hard working, Pennsylvania Dutch. “Them that works hard, eats hearty” perfectly described the reunion. Dishes that were centuries deep in family tradition always offered comfort and warmth. Many of the ingredients came from local farm stands carrying fresh grown produce. I remember Grandpa would meet his farmer friend as he returned from the field with a wagon full of fresh picked corn.

Handed down recipes that were cherished, I still make some 60 years later. 

There was nothing like Aunt Nadine’s old-fashioned potato salad with plenty of celery, eggs and relish. And who’d forget Aunt Gerry’s red beet eggs, pickled in beet juice, cider vinegar, sugar and salt?

At the fire pit the men sat and conversed while waiting for the charcoal to burn down to cooking perfection. To this day, there is nothing like the taste of a charcoal-grilled hamburger or hot dog!

 In the meantime, out came the “Skotch” coolers. Ours was plaid metal with a swinging handle. We licked and saved enough green stamps to purchase this model and mom was so proud. Coleman camp coolers filled with icy cold lemonade and fresh brewed sweet tea were set out with Dixie wax paper cups.

With food abundant and appetites hearty, the picnic was ready! As the cousins jumped to be first in line, we were reminded to “take only what you will eat.” Coming from the depression this rule applied even on special occasions and reminds us to this day not to waste what is precious for so many.

When it came to desserts there was no shortage! Fresh picked strawberries topped warm flaky biscuits, complete with a dollop of whipped cream was a hit!  Cored apples, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter were baked in a sweet dough, and served alongside ice cream.

Since the Pennsylvania Dutch eat pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Shoofly pie was included with the other tasty treats. Consisting of molasses filling and crumble topping, my Aunt Eileen still makes the best!

My favorite reunion dessert was icy cold watermelon. Why it was so crisp, I have no idea but one bite today and I’m back in my childhood!  With no watermelon options, we were met with lots of large seeds. To pass the time and prevent us from swallowing nothing but melon, we had “seed spitting” contests. Lead by Grandpa, whoever could send their seeds flying the furthest was the winner! The fear was “planted” that seeds could grow inside us. This was a safety strategy that worked well, all while having a good time.

After lunch, the young and the “young at heart” would take naps in lawn chairs or upstairs in one of the many bedrooms. For those still raring to go, you’d find folks playing badminton. Simple, fun and addictive the game would go on for hours. With rackets swinging, we’d count as the shuttlecock went back and forth over the net.

Another favorite lawn game was croquet. Grandpa won the set playing Bingo at the state fair.  We couldn’t wait to pick out our favorite color mallet and matching ball! I doubt there were any real rules but hitting the ball through the course of hoops was such a thrill. Even more fun was playing the game with our relatives. Looking back, the time together really helped us connect with the next generation.

“Some of the best summer memories are made in flip flops”

By nightfall some of my best memories came out along with the stars. It was time to catch fireflies! Empty glass jars lined the front porch with holes pierced in the metal lids. An apple slice was placed inside each container to give the fireflies juice to drink. “Lightning bugs” were the easiest to spot near the low hedge of peony bushes. The huge pink flowers must have enticed them as we worked in pairs, one to catch and one to hold the jar. It seemed like there were hundreds of fireflies in the jars and we enjoyed their glow until the next evening, when it was time to let them go.

Lastly, the magical ending to the family reunion was the lighting of sparklers. With anticipation, we’d wait as the fire sticks were passed out to each of the children. What a surprise to see what colors we’d get! It was mesmerizing to watch the bright flames spark in the air and a memorable ending to our special day. Have you used sparklers at your family gatherings? Ours are ordered for the 4th of July!

“One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.”

Dear Friends, I hope that July’s article has brought some fond memories for you. Family is such an important part of our lives and whether we cherish the memories we have or create new ones they will always be some of the best times to look back on, even during those difficult days.

Be sure to check out other blogs at allthatihad.com under the tab: From The Porch Swing.

In my story, “All That I Had” you’ll find more inspiration and smiles. A book designed for busy people, escape for a short while and experience the calm and joy of a different era.

Thank you all for sharing my blog and being the best messengers for “All That I Had.” Be sure to look out for one another and stay safe!


Have a wonderful summer,

Kathy Ann Corse, Author

This blog is dedicated to my Grandparents, Orval and Ethel Shaffer, who made every family gathering so special.
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