I spent long hours cleaning my front porch today. I began with the two white rocking chairs which three seasons of wild weather had dusted to dingy gray, scrubbing them over every inch and slat until they gleamed again.  I took my broom and knocked down the cobwebs and dust from the stuccoed walls, and then I swept… and swept… and swept.

I find such things very satisfying. My family comes from deep in Kentucky, so far south down I-75 we can claim Tennessee, and for some reason I have many memories of my old, country grandmother (who is still living), sweeping, sweeping, and sweeping her front porch all summer long. Round, short, and slow, with one leg that stopped bending at the knee years ago, she swept her porch. There was something in it that was a point of pride for her. I don’t think I understood it when I was young, but now that I am older, with a home of my own, I very much do.

As spring has worn on, my dirty front porch has nagged at me, even through my grief. What on earth kind of message does that send?, cried some old Appalachian woman programmed into my brain. Aren’t you going to take care of what’s yours?

I’ve got to get to that, I muttered to myself again and again.

Finally cleaning it was cathartic. Something in that motion, that forceful pull, push of the broom, the decisive expulsion of last years’ dirt, gives me a sense of being irrevocably linked to the women of my heritage across generations. My grandmothers haven’t always had much, but they have unanimously taken much pride in caring for the things they did have. Doing as they did connects me to them, honors them, honors the life I have.

After many weeks of unrelenting grief, sweeping the porch was a literal breath of fresh air. One thing at a time.