Susan Bulloch

Fall 2012 Writing Regimen Contest Winner

At the end of every month-long writing regimen,
participants are invited to submit up to three of their best
regimen-inspired pieces for a chance at publication in SER Online. After sifting through the varied and truly wonderful submissions from this summer’s run, we managed to select just one essay to display. We are proud to announce that Susan Bulloch is our most recent winner.

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Susan grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, spending summers on the Gulf Coast from birth through Junior High. After graduating from high school, she lived in Jacksonville, Florida for a time, followed by Miles City, Montana for several years. While living in Montana, Susan developed a strong affinity for the West and its people, and enjoys taking long vacations out there, tooling around the back roads, as well as the many national and state parks. Currently, she has two daughters and grandchildren in California and Arizona, giving her even more incentive to visit as often as possible.  Susan earned her BS in Information Studies from Florida State University, and works full-time for the Florida Department of Agriculture, in the law enforcement division. She is a member of the Tallahassee Writer’s Association, and has had a short story published in the Seven Hills Review. In her spare time, Susan enjoys the coast, traveling, and spending time with her family; including her significant other, son, and three granddaughters who live in Tallahassee.

In Susan’s words: “This essay was inspired by the “Take a Trip” prompt on Day Two to write of a place or location I had visited. As I have children in Tucson, AZ and San Diego, CA, and travel out there quite a bit, the West popped into my mind first. I started thinking specifically about Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon, and the strong spirituality I feel in both places; followed by San Diego and Tucson. Eventually, I reminded myself there were plenty of places right here at home worthy of writing about and remembering, leading me to a place as simple as my front porch.”

Ghosts on the Porch

 

          Being Southern, I have a natural affinity for screened porches. Any porch; front of the house, back, side; all I need is a chair and a rail on which to prop my feet, while watching the world drift past. A nice glass of Knob Creek or good wine doesn’t hurt either.
Of course, I do have my favorites. One is my paternal grandparent’s side porch that I may visit now in memory only. I can still see my grandmother knitting away, and my grandfather studying about his prized camellias. Another favorite is from the maternal side, and fortunately a porch I still visit regularly. It is a small, three-sided screened porch, in a small fishing shack on the gulf coast, built by my grandparents in 1946-47 after the war. My roots grow deep there, where my family spent every summer through Junior High. We drove down the day school ended, and moved back to town the Sunday before Labor Day every year. I loved it as a small kid, hated it as a teenager, and now love it again as a grandmother.
The porch was my bedroom as a child. My cot was on the southeast side, my sister’s on the north wall, and my brother’s on the southwest side. The front was filled with rockers, where the adults congregated in the afternoon to chat while keeping an eye on us kids playing on the beach out front, and again in the evening after supper when it was time to relax. I remember sitting on my mother’s lap on moon-bright nights, while she rocked and sang to me; The Man in the Moon, The Cannibal King with the Big Nose Ring, and The Little Red Caboose. The same songs I sang to my children, and sing to my grandchildren today.  Sometimes on a Friday or Saturday night when my uncles, aunts and cousins were down,  it turned into a card room, where the adults played Bridge and Poker, with the beer flowing and the cigarettes burning into the night. It was the sixties, when smoking was still okay. The Bridge topper my grandfather made to fit the card table is still in the back bedroom, conjuring up these special moments every time I see it.
These days, the cots and the family are gone, but the rockers remain. I love sitting in one of them, with my feet propped on the rail. I close my eyes and run my hands along the arms, feeling like I am touching my mother again via the worn wood. It would not surprise me one bit to hear her yell “Don’t slam that damn door!” as the grandkids run past, slamming the screened door on their way to the beach. I close my eyes for a moment, and when I open them again, the two chairs next to me are gently swaying in the afternoon breeze. I smile, wondering who has come to visit, and am grateful for the company.