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BOOMER’S JOURNAL: Broom on the back porch

The old kitchen broom stood by the screen door on the back porch…tired and worn out. It had graduated to that perch when the new kitchen broom arrived in the spring. The tired, old broom, its life seemingly over as it was replaced by the new. A sad ending for a hard life.

Or was it? It hadn’t been discarded, and it really hadn’t been demoted. It just had different responsibilities.

Although my dog Chipper’s head was cut off by my mother’s photographic aspirations, this is the only old photo I could find with the old back porch broom. Image from Rachel Barduson’s photo collection

Standing next to the back door, that old broom was the first thing to welcome neighbors and friends to our home. It had readied the cracked concrete of the worn out porch by sweeping away the dirt and sand, the mud from a recent rain…maybe even a little manure from the barn.

You see, the back porch wasn’t really meant for visitors to enter our cozy home, but it was through the back screen door that many a visitor made their way to the kitchen table for coffee and cookies. When I think back, that old broom was the key to welcoming everyone to our humble abode, and the back door was THE friendly, “everyday” way of entering.

Mom used that poor old broom as she swept the back porch, preparing for a new day, or cleaning up at the end of a day of hard work. She used it as she readied our home for everyday life and the possibility of everyday friends. That old broom always stood ready, on duty, outside, rain or shine.

As a little girl, I thought that old broom needed to have some fun. I felt sorry for that old broom. There was more to this life than just sweeping gravel, dirt and manure. Poor, sad old broom.

Well, I would fix that.

With the imagination of a child, pristine and all things bright and sunny, I took that old broom, and it brought life to my imagination. Turn that old broom upside down and I suddenly had a boyfriend. I danced with that old broom just like the teenagers on American Bandstand. My broom’s name changed with my whims…one day his name was Monty. Another day his name was Lee. The next day maybe his name was Jimmy. Regardless, we danced on the old back porch, and maybe even kissed. (I made sure there was no manure on the straw bristles.)

The back porch broom became MY household staple as I swept out a spot in the woods and played house. Mom said I could use it, as long as I brought it back and placed it next to the screen door where it belonged. I used the handle of that old broom to draw lines in the dirt and the straw bristles. It swept out my imaginary kitchen, dining room and living room. It kept the entryway to my playhouse in the woods neat and tidy. The old broom was no longer sad. It was adding a lot of joy and happiness to my playhouse life.

When I tired of my “boyfriends” or my house in the woods, I took that old broom, and it became my baton for leading the marching band in a parade. You see, I had watched my older sister twirl her baton and look behind her to see if the band was following, and I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be a majorette too. I didn’t have a baton, but I sure had an old broom. I would take that old broom off the back porch, and voila, I had a baton and a great big marching band following me as I marched across the lawn. I was a majorette, just like my sister.

The old broom substituted for a baseball bat. As I tried to hit small pebbles into the woods, I was suddenly Mickey Mantle, and I aimed for the fence down by the barn. I hit many imaginary homeruns with that old broom. I was a baseball star.

As I grew older I learned that the old broom had many important outdoor jobs. And I appreciated it for its long handle. That tired old broom was used to sweep the cobwebs off window frames and cobwebs stuck to the siding of the house. We would take it down to the barn to sweep cobwebs after the long winter. That old broom swept more winter cobwebs in the granary and the machine shed than I could ever count. Thank goodness that old broom had a long handle.

As we grew older, the old broom brought cheap laughs for family gatherings. It became one of our most-often-used tools for lawn games. We would take that old broom, put the tip of its handle on the tip of our nose, close our eyes and twirl around until we became dizzy…trying to jump over it after we threw it to the ground. Every family member had their chance to try, always ending with a fall onto the lawn and barrel laughs by everyone.

We would use it for the Limbo Rock dance by Chubby Checker. Each one of us, on the green grass of home, took our turn to see how low we could go. And afterwards, the old broom was put back where it belonged…on the back porch…before we gathered as a family to take the annual summer picnic picture. That poor old broom never made it in a family photo. No family pictures on the back porch.

The old broom never reached the higher status of standing on the front porch. But for me, that old broom was one of my best childhood friends. MY imaginary friend and family member. As long as it stood next to the screen door on the back porch, it wasn’t some old discarded thing. It was part of my life and my imagination.

And as I grew older, it became a “welcome” sign…a sign of hospitality, humility and gratefulness. And, today…a sign of happy memories.

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