Down here in the south land, having a porch is almost mandatory. Well, it was up until having an air-conditioner became more important. Back before AC, a porch was a place to sit to admire the view – be it mountains, lake, farmland or neighbors across the street. It was also a place to watch the world go by, wave to your neighbors and strangers who came wandering down your road. It was a special place to sit with your grandfather and hear tales of the big one that got away down at his favorite fishing hole. And a place where you learned how to shuck corn or shell peas with your grandmother.
Your porch might have had a swing to while away the hours. If it was like ours, there was a definite squeaky groan from the chains as you rocked back and forth. If you were really lucky, there was a gardenia bush right by the steps and that scent would meet you every time you walked out of the screen door. And speaking of screen doors – you learned very quickly NOT to slam that screen door and to be sure and knock the sand off your shoes before you dared to walk into the house.
Way back when, people only came in the front door. And if it was a really hot day, sitting on the porch was a good bit cooler than perching on a warm sofa inside. And lots of porches had an overhead fan to stir up the hot air and keep away the bugs. You didn’t dare turn on a light at night but if you did, you could watch and hear the moths trying to bat their way into it.
A porch view allows a parent to keep an eye on children as they rip and snort in the yard – you do remember ripping and snorting don’t you? My best friend growing up was a PK (preacher’s kid) and we got into no end of trouble playing in his, mine and the church yard. That was back when your feet would hit the floor around 6am, and you knew you could go stand under your BFF’s window and he’d come running out to play. We’d share a can of Vienna sausages and didn’t have to come home till our mamas rang the bell or our daddys whistled really loud. But as usual I digress from talking about porches.
We had a small front porch growing up in central Florida and a somewhat larger sun porch, but I remember Mama drawing out the plans for a screened porch off the dining room side. She loved that porch once it was built, and it was so pretty the way she decorated it with old wicker that she had growing up in Alabama.
A porch is the perfect place for games. So much fun to pull up a chair for a game of checkers or get really loud playing Pictionary or Chinese Checkers with grandchildren. I remember sitting on our sun porch at home playing Pirate and Traveler with my folks. It instilled in me a sense of wanderlust for these exotic sounding places. Sao Paulo, Constantinople, Bombay – places I’ll surely never visit but can still dream up the scents of the markets, the tight alleyways and yards of colorful clothing. So a porch can lend itself to dreaming. And what better place to dream than a rope hammock. That old hammock of ours has been repaired a couple of times now – but it’s lasted more than 30 years. It’s a very special place that encourages reading and then napping as the to and fro movement tends to make even the most active of children nod off.
Another important activity on a porch is practicing a craft. Coloring is always a favorite but the old fashioned coloring books have given way to those fancy ones from Hobby Lobby. And all those found treasures off the beach like oyster shells? They take on a whole new luster (literally) when painted in different colors.
Long conversations into the night, sipping sweet tea on a hot sunny day, meeting a prospective bridegroom, greeting long lost friends, anxiously waiting for a letter from a faraway loved one, playing games on a rainy day, and just hearing the goings of someone’s day – it’s all about making memories.
“The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch swing with, never say a word, then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation that you ever had.” Arnold H. Glasgow
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