Friday, November 18, 2011

In Praise of Front Porches

Front porches seem to be a thing of the past.  I notice that many of the older homes in the town where I live do, indeed, have front porches.  Most in the newer developments do not.  There may be a small covered area by the front door, but not a real front porch.  A front porch, to be a really truly front porch, needs to cover the entire front of the house and perhaps extend around to one side.

My Grandma Paul's house in St. Paul had a front porch across the front of her house and extending a little ways around one side.  I played there often as a child.  It was the one place I could play and pretty much stay out of trouble.  It was when I left the porch that bad things happened, like being enticed by neighbor kids, older than my four years, to sliding down a two by eight board that they had propped up on the fence.  Sliding down on my belly resulted in a visit to the hospital to have a large sliver of wood removed from the area of my waist.  Should have stayed on the porch.

The first house my family lived in after moving to Willmar had a front porch.  The landlady who lived in the downstairs of the house allowed my sister and I to play on the porch.  One winter while we lived there, Willmar was blanketed by a huge snow storm.  My sister, who was not much older than a toddler at the time, walked off the edge of the porch into the deep snow and promptly disappeared from sight.  Good thing my Dad was right there to haul her out.  Should have stayed on the porch.

The next house in Willmar where we lived had a kind of half front porch.  Wasn't much of a porch.  But then, it wasn't much of a house, being very small.  But in the summer there were vines growing up wire that Dad strung from the roof to the bottom of the porch rail, which made the front porch cool and kind of dark and a really good place to play on hot summer days.

The best front porch of all the houses I lived in as a child was the front porch of the house on the farm.  It was a wonderful porch that extended all the way across the front of the house.  It was screened in to keep the bugs out.  Dad had dragged an old vinyl covered couch that folded down into a bed, out to the porch.  As a young kid I spent many a summer night sleeping on that old couch out on the porch.

From the porch we could see across the fields and Dad and I would stand there, protected from the weather, and watch the black summer storm clouds roll across the sky.  I still like to watch the clouds on a stormy day.

There was an old kitchen table and some chairs on the porch, and in the summer when we had weekend company, Mom would make pitchers of real lemonade and serve them with gingersnaps, out on the porch where it was cool and the breeze felt good out of the heat of the sun.

I think that we need more front porches.  For with a good front porch comes the art of just sitting and watching the world go by.  Or watching clouds roll in.  Or just sitting.  And thinking.  And remembering.  And dreaming.  Which is always good for the soul.

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