Wednesday, April 27, 2016
An Ode to my Front Porch
I grew up in the city, in a big, drafty house on a patched, tree-lined street. We filled every corner of that old house, there were 9 of us all together, and while there were many rooms and niches that I loved, it was the porch that made me happiest. The back porch was long and narrow, running most of the length of the back of the house. When I think of it, it's the sound of a screen door slamming and feet running on crunchy gravel that I hear. But it's the front porch that holds my heart.
The house is not the same today. I've stalked my childhood neighborhood on GoogleMaps over the years, borne witness to the changing landscape of my old stomping grounds. The roof over the porch is gone; the fence around the front yard is new. The giant lilac bush in the front yard, our hideout, is gone; the stained glass window upstairs and the cast iron mailbox removed. Next door, to the right, is where Mrs. Coblenz lived next door, her yard a well-kept garden oasis where I would "help" her weed and keep it tidy. She would invite us in, feed us cookies and sun-warmed tomato slices with sugar. She called me Marishka. She moved before we did, her house and gardens fell into disrepair so the sight of a clear view to the alley where her house used to be is a bit easier to digest. So many changes to the houses on our old street.
But my porch is still there.
So much of my life was spent on that porch. Drawing, reading, feeding squirrels. Planning adventure with friends, the place that was "gool" in our neighborhood games of tag or hide-and-go-seek (shouldn't that be just hide-and-seek?), where I learned to braid my neighbor's waist-length hair and where I made mix tapes by recording songs from my transistor radio, learning hand-eye coordination by determining the best second to release the "pause" button and start recording.
A front porch, to me, is the start of all things.
When we searched for our own home, it was the porch that drew me. We walked through the right house at the wrong time, where all the things were in the places we wished they would be in the house we built in the air between us, the one where the front porch beckoned to me.
I was smitten.
I didn't realize until that point how much I missed that front porch on my childhood home. Walking through a house and seeing that we could have a porch like that connected me to something, something I had made small and stuffed away.
I didn't realize how important this was to me until then.
We walked out of that house but it stayed with me. For three years we dragged our groaning and protesting kids out with us and went to open houses, visited builders, searched for the house that would be right for us, for the one that would make us forget that house with the perfect layout and the big porch, but the search seemed fruitless. After a while, we were all groaning and protesting.
Then, when we least expected it and weren't looking, we found the right place in the last place we expected it to be, the right house, the right time, and when we finally committed, it was the house plan we loved all those years ago, the very same one with the porch, that we ended up with. It's been just over a year since we decided, just over four months since we settled in.
And I'm still smitten.
My kids are learning the joy of the front porch. We spend long stretches of time there together, reading or talking, listening to music, drinking coffee or tea or water or wine, and watching the world go by—be that cars or trucks or turkeys or cardinals. The front porch is where things happen, no computers required.
Last night, we sat on the porch as we waited for the rain. It looks south west, where all storms seem to come from here in Oklahoma, so we had a front row view from our front porch. The wind had yet to whip, the birds were still flitting (the front yard cardinal pair—not to be confused with the back yard cardinal pair—were hanging out at the feeder and we were making up dialogue for them). There were random June bugs lying around like little hungover frat boys, waving their legs in the air. And there was a frog. We named him Splat, saved him from the dog and delivered him to a tree before the rain came.
Last week, it was a flurry of ladybugs and before that, a luna moth.
This rural porch is a far cry from the urban porch of my youth, but one thing is the same: magical things happen on the front porch.