Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"If the World Had a Front Porch..."

            Basically, I’m a city gal. Growing up on the outskirts of Houston spoiled me for urban conveniences. These days, I still like living within a few blocks of all the essential destinations in my life: supermarkets, shopping centers, my bank, my doctor, my church, and a Braums’ ice cream store. But my mother was a country girl, and frequent childhood trips to her tiny East Texas hometown established a few rural roots in me—at least enough to give me an appreciation for country music (some) and a yearning for a big front porch.
My grandparents' front porch.
Its appearance has changed some
since I was a kid, but the good
memories remain constant.
            In 1995, Tracy Lawrence came out with the hit “If the World had a Front Porch.” With the exception of a grandfather who taught the singer “how to cuss” (I never heard my grandfather utter a single curse word), that song tells so much of my own front-porch experience. My grandparents’ big porch was replete with the swing (why have a front porch if you don’t have a swing?), the rocking chair, and the yellow light bulb that attracted swarms of kamikaze insects. I never witnessed the birth of puppies on the porch, but I recall a couple of litters being cradled in boxes there. On hot summer nights, my siblings and I, along with a passel of cousins, would play games or collect “lightning bugs” in the yard, while the older folks sat on the porch to catch and shoot the breeze. Often, one of the kids was recruited to sit on top of the ice cream freezer while an adult cranked the handle. There were also truckloads of watermelon consumed on that porch.
            With so many good memories, is it any wonder I’ve always longed to own a big front porch? And yet I never have. I grew up in the fifties and sixties in one of those midcentury houses with a front porch the size of a postage stamp. The houses my husband Bill and I have owned all had porches the size of the envelope—a little larger but still not big enough to serve any useful purpose. It seems that until recently front porches all but disappeared. In the suburban sprawl of the fifties, folks retreated behind the walls of their houses to seek privacy and to watch TV. In the sixties and seventies, they ventured back outside, but instead of lounging on the porch to sip iced tea or lemonade, they retreated to backyard patios to barbecue. In the eighties, those patios became decks—often with the added luxury of a hot tub and/or a pool—and that trend held steady through the nineties and into the new millennium. These days, outdoor kitchens ensure that most of our socializing remains in the back yard.
            Lately, though, I’ve noticed a revival of the front porch. With the resurrection of the Craftsman and bungalow styles, lovely porches are once again gracing the fronts of new houses: porches large enough to provide shade and comfortable seating for several people; porches where folks can sit outside and greet—or meet—their neighbors.
            I don’t think my dream of owning a big front porch will ever become a reality. Bill and I have lived in several different houses throughout our married life but have been in our current one for twenty-five years. We’re so settled in, it would take an act of God to remove us (maybe not such a remote possibility with Oklahoma tornadoes and earthquakes). But  Bill insists his next address will be the ground. I’m thinking more along the lines of “the home.”
...my porch "wannabe"
(But, hey, it works.)
My dream porch...
            So what do you do when a dream eludes you? You improvise. Located between an exterior garage wall and the sidewalk that leads to our front door is a patch of land originally intended as a flower bed. Problem was, nothing but a boxwood hedge and a couple of yaupon hollies would grow there. When the hollies were bushes, summer sun burned up any flowers I planted in that spot. When they grew into trees, too much shade became the culprit. So about fifteen years ago, in a fit of frustration, I covered that patch with pavers and made my own “front porch.” It’s a poor substitute for a rambling veranda with the obligatory swing, but Bill and I use it for a cozy place to read or chat on the phone or to enjoy some fresh air. And it’s a great place to wave or yell “hello” to neighbors. 
            In regard to that aforementioned “home,” when the time comes and if I have anything to say about the matter, it will have a big front porch. I think that will make a nice transition into my final and eternal abode—which, of course, will have a HUGE one.
            Have any front-porch thoughts or memories you’d like to share? 
 

5 comments:

  1. Lovely post. My grandparents had a large front porch. Like you said, while the adults talked the kids played. I had a magnificent horse fashioned from a propane tank. Most family photos from that time were taken on that porch. The home place is now falling into ruin. The roof of the porch is sagging dangerously and the flooring is unstable. I often want to go back in time to those simpler days.

    We have a front porch which is lovely from the road but it isn't deep enough for furniture. If we ever move a large front porch will be essential. And, a back deck with a screened in porch.

    By the way, I want homemade ice cream and I want to lick the dasher! Thank you for this remarkable post that conjures only happy memories.

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    1. Thank you, Winona. I was hoping this post would conjure good memories for a lot of people. I love it that you had a "propane tank" horse! I see from your pic you've moved on to real ones. :-)

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  2. Lovely post, DeeDee. Took me back!

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    1. Thank you, Sandra. I suspected a lot of people would have similar memories associated with front porches.

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