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Possumhaw: Ode to a screen door


Shannon Bardwell



"Bam," the screen door slammed. "Bam," it slammed again. It's a new sound coming from the back porch. 


I love the sound of a screen door slamming. I love the way a screen door can make you feel like your outside even if you're inside. I love how you can hear people moving about inside the house even if you are outside. I love the way a screen door looks, not a storm door, but a real honest-to-goodness wooden screen door. 


My childhood home did not have a screen door but somewhere along the line I acquired a love of them. Maybe it was Grandma's house. She had a front porch and a screen door. She didn't have air-conditioning until the 10 adult children took up a collection and bought her a window unit.  


I never remember thinking Grandma needed air-conditioning. All of us cousins spent our daylight hours hiding in the jungle of a cane patch and our evening hours chasing lightening bugs. 


"Bam," Grandma's screen door slammed. A cousin ran inside for a glass of tap water. "Bam," another cousin came in and one went out again letting flies in the house.  


"Stay in or out," commanded Grandma while grabbing a fly-swatter, one of those plastic ones with the handle that looks like a coat hanger, she'd commence to swatting flies or one of us. 


So it was that one Saturday when Sam finished his short list of chores he ran in the house asking, "Is there anything else?" I knew he was thinking of fishing. 


"Well, I was thinking I'd like a screen door on the back porch." 


Sam's face flinched and he took off again. In a moment he returned with an old screen door he found in the back of the boat shed. "Will this one do or do you want a new one?" 


"I didn't mean for you to do it right now, but sure, that one would be perfect." 


In less than an hour Sam had trimmed the old screen door to the right size and hung it at the back door. The door was slightly warped but an easy fix with a little hardware. Best of all, the door was weathered matching the weathered cedar on the house. The screen door looked like it belonged there.  


I've always told Sam that living here is like living at the Salvation Army, if you look hard enough you can find just about anything you need, like the screen door. I believe if we needed a kitchen sink we could probably scrounge up one of those.  


Sam took off fishing and having finished my list of chores I sat on the back porch to watch the birds, the fish, the turtles, the cat and admire my new screen door. I went in and out a few times and listened to the "bam." 


The screen door was invented by Hannah Harger, an Iowa woman, in 1887.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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