A Front Porch?!
In a rare touchy-feely moment
we’re reminded what happened there,
in that now obscure, open-sided, semi-private
room that faced the street…
For more, open the front DOOR.
According to Shirley Baker¹ “Porches were the summer living room for most families when the heat and humidity made living inside just too uncomfortable….
“It was not uncommon for families to gather on the front porch after dinner to enjoy whatever breezes were to be found. Children released from school-bedtime hours played in the front yard while the older folks took their ease watching children chase and capture fireflies in old canning jars or play hide-and-seek behind bushes and trees. Young men wooed their sweethearts on porch swings, and many marriage proposals were offered in the confines of the the swing.
“As the sun set and darkness–along with cooler night air–appeared on a summer evening, it was a good time to stroll your neighborhood and visit with the neighbors, exchanging the news of the day. Neighbors knew and watched out for each other.”
To present this antiquated picture I’ll let someone else fill in the paint-by-the-numbers canvas.
Today, however, times, the use of time, material goods, frequent changing of locations, the nature of communication, the expected “moving away” of both older and younger generations, and expectations in general have radically changed. TV teases us into not letting it get to far out of reach, and hand-held electronic devices instantly take us not only across the street but across the world in air-conditioned comfort.
But not too far from somewhere to plug in.
So what sparked Baker’s musing? And my talking about it? Recently, on her way to St. Lucie (FL) she passed a billboard on I-95 that advertised a new “home community.” It read, “Return to Front Porch Living.”
Now I go back a bit further back than Baker. She made me recall an even older porch scene. In the early ’40s every summer Saturday night it was “waffles” for supper on the screened-in second back porch of the military duplex in the mountains of East Tennessee. Waffles, slathered with white margarine (or lard?) that had to be mixed with powder from ground-up”pills” to make it yellow. It was WWII, my father was a doctor at the V.A. hospital, I was very minor–but there. Late one late evening after supper I was terrified by a sudden thunderstorm. My father, not very demonstrative back then, nonetheless took me in his arms and talked to me about the beauty of what was happening and how God made the thunder and lightning. (He also made the arms that were holding me.) I’ve enjoyed–most–storms ever since.
As I contemplate returning to my home in the mountains of PA, I recall the two white pitchers covered with dark blue stars now on the shelf of my china cabinet. The larger one held the batter, the smaller, the rationed syrup. The old waffle iron is no more. Even walking across a creaky wooden floor can remind me of this.
Baker adds much more about happenings in that forgotten feature of a house–and what has almost caused it to disappear.
But not on our place in PA with rocking chairs even older than we are, and begging to be thrown away.
Or on her house, where she and her husband enjoy rocking, especially during a light summer rain.
Some things happen on a porch better than anywhere else.
¹ Shirley Baker retired from Brevard County Schools and was an English Adjunct at Rollins College Brevard for 14 years. The source for this material (other than for my personal journal) in this post, was “Front porch brings back memories” that appeared in the May 19, 2014 edition of Florida Today.