Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal


Linda Therber

I miss the sound of a screen door closing in soft reverberating taps, in back-and-forth, ever-shortening intervals that end with the world held back by a hook and eye bolt.

I miss that sound of yielding, of a hard wooden slap reduced to a whispered tap, the resonance a little less dramatic, but no less important.

I miss seeing the world through mesh marked by trails of candle fly dust and messages soaped by goblins.

I miss the screen door's horizontal millwork where the preacher slipped his calling card and the Watkins Man a brochure, where a playmate tucked notes written in secret code.

I miss business conducted through wire with Bible sellers and broom peddlers.

I miss the dull, flat, wooden knock signaling front porch deliveries: laundry wrapped in a brown paper bundle, tied with twine; Sears and Roebuck mail-order packages of taffeta dresses with velvet sashes and patent leather shoes; Weekly Reader Book boxes packed with Treasure Island, Heidi, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

I miss hearing the one-man produce department rolling slowly down the street, its truck bed covered with a makeshift tin roof where a scale pan swayed to the call, "Market Man. Home Grown Tomatoes. Fresh Corn Today.”

I miss the rattle and clatter of wagon wheels, syncopated clops on blacktop; harness metal jangling counterpoint to soughing leather; the pitch and yaw of a wagon drawn by a mule wearing a straw hat; an old man in overalls and sport coat flicking the reins and calling, "Rag Man. It's a Rag Man."

I miss wire-filtered songs of cardinals, bossy blue jays, mocking bird mimics and aromas of wisteria, lilac, roses, and rain.

A glass door framed in aluminum replaced our screen door, and we watched the world through the haze of our breathing. We stenciled it with Glass Wax ornaments, wreaths, and candy canes, and Glass-Waxed them away. We changed out winter curtains for spring ones and replaced the door's glass with a screen panel that filtered sounds and breezes and flower fragrances.

Updated and protected by a locking lever, we were still in touch with the world, heard metal skates roll on asphalt and children call "One, Two, Three, Red Light." But there were no calls from the ragman or the market man, and the Watkins man didn't stop by to sell liniment or vanilla anymore.

One day, we stopped changing curtains with the seasons and covered windows with mini-blinds and thermal drapes. We took refuge behind doors of iron-barred glass, posted warning signs in the yard, turned keys in deadbolts, locked out the world, and locked ourselves inside with battery-powered bird song and garden scented air-freshener.
Now, we enter codes on keypads, zap garage doors, punch buttons to disarm and liberate a vehicle that talks to us on the way to an electric-eyed superstore where no one talks to us while we browse aisles filled with everything from apples to automobile tires. We unpack our carts, self-scan our items, and pack our own bags at a register that speaks but can’t listen.

I miss the sound of a screen door closing in soft reverberating taps, in back-and-forth, ever-shortening intervals that end with the world held back by a hook and eye bolt.


Linda Therber has published in community and educational newsletters and was a contributor to Helping Kids Learn Multi-Cultural Concepts, A Handbook of Strategies. Her essay "Stocking Up" appeared in Southwest Single Parents' Magazine, and eighteen of her non-fiction pieces have appeared in The Tennessean, “Nashville Eye.”

Linda was born in Montgomery, Alabama, and grew up in suburban Middle Tennessee. Fortunate enough to have spent some childhood days on her grandparents' Tennessee farms, she experienced rural life and heard family stories of bygone days. With that and twenty-nine years of teaching in urban schools, she experienced diverse cultures, discovered the nuances of language and behavior, and learned that much is revealed in the unguarded moment and the unspoken word. Add a fascination for what happens when words are strung together, and the result may be creative non-fiction, fiction, or memoir.

Other than writing, Linda’s interests include genealogical research and oral history. She compiled a book of family history. In the late 1980's, she worked on a neighborhood project for The Woodbine Community Organization, recording oral histories, collecting historic photographs, and researching the history of Old Mill Creek Baptist Church, which led to restoration efforts of Mill Creek Cemetery.

© Linda Therber

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012