Rediscovering the front porch

I’ve been receiving cosmic messages from the universe in triplicate and they all relate to my front porch…that desolate place that collects dust and makes me sneeze.

First, “All things Considered” on public radio did a piece on front porches; then my local paper carried a story in Sunday’s magazine section. After seeing a blurb on Home & Garden television, I finally got the message.

Each one entreated me to rediscover my front porch. So I decided to try, since my front porch is dying of boredom and criminal neglect.

Last night, after the heat of the day had retreated, and the few remaining fireflies that inhabit the earth were flitting through the overgrown hedges that need trimming, I tentatively approached the porch. The last time I tried to sit out there, along came a spider and ran me inside. Armed with a full can of Bengal, Rebel and Lucky Dog and I jumped on the porch swing and began pumping.

It was really nice and I wondered why I don’t come out here more often. After all, a big front porch was one of the “Must Have” criteria on my check list when I bought the house. I know not why. I don’t visit except to pick up the mail and water the few withering plants.

Yet, I have rich memories of visiting my grandmother when I was a child. After a supper of ham and rice (leftovers from “dinner” which referred to the noon meal back then), we would move to the porch and watch the traffic whoosh by. Occasionally, a neighbor would join us and we would receive the gossip of the day while the rusty porch swing mesmerized us with its metronome-like pace. I usually fell asleep on that old swing and mother would carry me inside.

We didn’t have air conditioning back then, or computers with Wii games. Television was spotty and there was nothing to watch but the test pattern after 9 p.m. So we repaired to the porch. Old “so and so” would innocently drive by and we would get a full report on his life and times. Ditto for the next motorist. It was like a soap opera without the commercial intermissions.

Back at my childhood home, the neighborhood kids and I met on my front porch every night after supper (leftovers again) and discussed our nemesis, the Abominable Snowman. Each of us had stories about seeing him in person. Larry McHaney told me the monster hated girls with freckles and I knew I was doomed.

We’d go in – when mother made us. I would vigorously rub my face with lemon juice which I was told would fade the freckles, and ask for the light to be left on. I’m still terrified of that monster snowman.

Sunday’s magazine section featured Claude Stevens, a self proclaimed professional porch sitter. He has even given himself a porch-sitting alias – “Crow Hollister.” I liked that idea so much, I’ve given myself a porch sitting alias – “Basil Metabolism.” Come join me for some sweet tea and chocolate chip cookies. Those will stow the fires of our metabolism.

We’ll sit a spell (does anyone know the definition of a spell?) and put the cares of the world on hold.

3 thoughts on “Rediscovering the front porch

  1. (Ann Frye – who grew up in West Point – sent me this note which will be good for some good laughs for my friends in The Point. I never did smoke cross vines, we went straight to the camels.)

    Oh, Emily

    What a delight you are! What is it about Broad Street that can just never leave us? One of the first things my daddy did to remodel when we bought the house across from the Sudberry’s (later to be your house), was to tear off the front porch. When we first moved there, Bobby McHaney performed acrobatics for me on his bed while I watched, facinated, from that porch. Ah, well. I could still watch him perform, but it seemed more like voyuerism to just stand in his yard and watch him flip around. He never teased me about my freckles, but actually called me his “Dream Boat”. His grandmother used to send a box of cross-vine every spring from Arkansas

    and we would go in the back yard or down by the ditch and smoke it. Very sophisticated, eh? We all used to “play out” until our caretakers MADE us come in. We had regular ghost stories, but none of them were about the Abominable Snow Man. We had a lot of plays or “skits” in which I was the fair maiden and Bobby rescued me. Daddy kept a close eye on him. I wish I still had that energy and the disdain for meals that we had then. The Sudberrys were the first on the street to have air conditioning. I can remember going into Sydney’s bedroom, flinging myself on the bed and breathing in all that frosty air. Wow! The Lloyds (next door to you) were the first on the street with television. We all went over to watch wrestling and eat Mrs. Lloyd’s delicious cookies.

    It’s my thinking that when air conditioning started creeping in, the porches started disappearing, along with the sense of community. My husband thought I was nuts when I wanted to put a ceiling fan on my front porch just so I could watch the goings on in the neighborhood…..I just can’t stand the heat anymore. I love being in the swing and will have to come up with a “swing moniker”…..Now I just pray that the swing won’t fall down when a neighbor joins me on it.

    I so enjoyed your story about Robert Harrell. He is my brother, Charles’, age and lived over on Westbrook (next to the Lovings….remind me to tell you of some of the stories from THEIR house). Wonderful. Colorful. But back to Robert. He is just so wonderful and I love him better than chocolate (that’s a LOT of love). Every time he sees you he makes you think you’re a special person. That’s a real gift. West Point is so lucky to have the characters (a term of endearment) that we do…..your dad is included. I hear rumors of his office closing and it gives me chills. I’ve already told him he’s the only person who can never retire and cannot die. We’ll just ALL go under. I remember your mother with that porcelain skin and beautiful smile and the fact that her clothes never got wrinkled; she was perfectly formed and gracious beyond words.

    Gone much too soon.

    Just wanted you to know you set off lots of memories for me and they were all pleasant.

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