Nettie lives in the land of Common Sense where she governs from her front porch. No one dares to dispute her opinions of faith, family, finances, politics and just plain living.
Once upon a time truth was stranger than fiction and now fiction becomes wiser than truth. "Nettie-ology" is wisdom that goes beyond today's real world.
I was sitting on my front porch shukinG corn when Florence pulled up in the drive. It could not have been more obvious that her soul was troubled as I watched her slowly, hesitantly, get out of the car.
She looked like she was going to get back in the car without speaking so I hollered: “What’s the matter honey?”
“Hi, Ma.” A lot of the young people in the community call me even though we are not related. I don’t mind I love them all like children. “I am so overwhelmed I just don’t know what to do. I had to talk to somebody and you are the first person I thought about.” Florence said.
Florence Parkham is married to Jacob who has a successful real estate business. They have two children a daughter and son, both are grown. One would think the two of them would be living comfortably but that is not the case.
“Jake’s son is in jail again!” Jake is Jacob Junior. Jacob Parkham Junior has four children the oldest, Jacob the third, seems to stay in trouble.
“What did he do now?” I was standing as she was was slowly climbing the few steps onto the porch.
Life can age you fast if you let it trouble you and Florence, Flo, looked like she had aged quite a bit since the last time I saw her. Preparing corn was going to have to wait; I went into the house returning with two glasses of wine and a tray of cheese anc crackers.
“I just don’t understand ma. I don’t understand how you can give children everything and they turn out to be so much trouble!” The tears were welling up in her eyes as she spoke and she began to take deep breaths trying to keep them at bay.
I wanted to say: children don’t need everything they need to earn what they want and receive from their parents what they need but I said nothing.
“Jacob and I paid for that boy to go to private school after the first time he got in trouble. We bought everything he needed to be successful, not that Jacob Junior could not afford it but we just wanted to let him understand that his family was there for him.” She paused for a long time concentrating on breathing.
Flo reached for a piece of cheese and grabbed a few crackers, I sipped my glass of wine. We just sat and looked at the sky; it was beautiful this time of evening. My front porch looked out onto a field Chip had purchased after the last owners died. We saw the wild fields, we had not decided what we would do with the land yet, and the glow of the sunset. Peace began to flow.
“Ma, I am soooooo tired. I am tired of listening to my children’s complaints about what they don’t have and what did not happen the way when they were younger. Neither of them were old enough to appreciate how their father struggled to build this business and be there for there extra curricular activities. They don’t know the sacrifices we made so that they could have the opportunities they have. Even helping with child care after Evelyn’s divorce and putting the down payment on her home.
“I am tired of helping them with their bad-ass children! Of course Evelyn’s children are angels compared to Jacob Junior, and he is the oldest of the grandchildren.” Florence started laughing. “I got my nerve don’t I? Here I am complaining to you about my children complaining!” she reached for her glass of wine took a sip and ate a few more crackers. “I am always coming to you with my problems.”
“What we learn to do as we get wiser, not necessarily older, is speak sparingly. I have learned over the years that most people know what to do they just need to talk it out. Anytime you need to talk it out my front porch is here, in the morning there is juice, in the afternoon we can have some tea, and in the evening we can have wine.”
“But, I don’t remember the last time I came over here just to see how you were doing. I am always talking to you about my trouble.”
“You don’t remember bringing us dinner two weeks ago?”
“Do you remember the skirt you brought me last month or the fabric you brought me three days ago?”
“No buts. You bring so much joy to me and Chip, you and Jacob. The fact that you trust us enough to share your troubles with us is an honor. Don’t ever be concerned about that. And, if it ever becomes to much I will let you know.”
“I guess my real problem is my life is not turning out the way I planned. I admire you and Papa Chip so much that I want me and Jacob to be like you guys.”
“Well, you should know it ain’t always smooth sailing for me and Chip. We have our ups and downs just like everyone else. Don’t try to be like us though, you and Jacob are a good couple and as long as your life turns out the way God planned you are going to be alright.”
Just then my husband pulled up in his truck and we watched him unload some mulch.
“Pappa, you need some help?”
“No daughter, I can handle it; hard work keeps me young and out of trouble.” Chip, my husband, laughed and kept on working. By the time he had finished stacking the mulch in the barn I had brought him a tall glass of lemonade and sat it down next to his porch chair.
Florence caught him up on what was going on with her grandson revealing details that she had yet to share with me. Apparently Jake had decided to participate in a political protest in another county and got arrested for disorderly contact, assault and resisting arrest. Despite being a juvenile he had a two year history of incidents in which law enforcement had been called, three times in which he had been arrested, once he was sent to juvenile detention center. This in addition to being expelled from public schools twice were all warnings that Jacob the third was well on his way to being a thug.
His father Jacob Junior, refused to get him out of jail so his mother did but he was not permitted to come home. Thus he was currently staying at his grandparents residence except Jacob Senior was in agreement with his son and only allowed him in the house to appease his stressed out wife. The tension in the home drove Florence to Nettie’s front porch.
“There is a program that I just helped another troubled child get in, have Jacob call me and I can see about getting young Jake in. Let me warn you Flo, though it is a Christian program it is very strict and it is very private which means it is going to cost a lot of money. In addition to hours of Bible study he will be expected to complete various community service activities as well as chores in the building. There is a contract that must be signed by his parents, and I am going to recommend that you and Jacob sign as well, that states: once he is in he cannot come and go as he pleases, failure to complete the program is guaranteed jail time; period. The program can last from one month to a maximum of five years.”
“Could you do that for us?” Hope could be seen in Florence eyes.
“I can’t do anything for you but I can help Jake if he wants.”
“He’ll do it.” She interrupted.
“Florence, he cannot just do it. He has to want to change his life and that takes a change in his “the world owes me attitude.” It also means you and his mother need to take those tit-ties out of his mouth and let him be the man that he needs to be.”
Chips words caught Flo off guard and she just stood there with her mouth open.
“I know you think that you helping your children but you are not.” Chip continued. “Children don’t need everything given to them,, they need to earn what they want and receive from their parents what they need.” He looked at me and smiled. “There is also a family counseling portion as well and you may not like what they say to you. You and Jacob have not encouraged your children to earn much in life and therefore they believe they are entitled to things they are not entitled to. This philosophy has trickled down not just to your grandchildren but to many of the children of today. Now don’t feel bad sweetie, poppa’s not fussing at you I am just giving you something to think about.”
Chip looked around and then turned to me. “We are having communion for dinner?”
“I thought we were going out.” I said laughing.
“Can we all go together?” Florence asked. “Jacob and I were going to go to that new place in town.”
“Sounds like a good idea, what do you say Poppa?”
“Sounds good to me, but only if Jacob lets me pay.” Chip answered.
“Now, that is between you and my husband though I think you are going to loose on that one. Let me call him and see what he wants to do.” With that Florence picked up her phone and called her husband who said he would meet us at our house.
Chip went in the house to shower and change. Florence gathered the plate that had a few chunks of cheese and a couple of crackers the glasses taking them into the kitchen. I gathered my shucked and unshucked corn and place them in the house for later.
By the time Jacob arrived at the I had changed and we were all sitting on the porch appreciating the moonlight. This is not the day I had planned but it was a good day never-the-less.
A FRONT PORCH STORY- according to the world of NETTIE. All rights reserved; do not use without the permission of Marsha L F Randolph