Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Today's Porches Are Where You Find Them

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Today's Porches Are Where You Find Them

Article excerpt

One by one we settle into our lounge chairs and organize our books or adjust our Walkmans and laugh and chat as we smear ourselves with a No.15 or No. 30. It's morning at our neighborhood pool in north Florida, and those of us here have disposable time. We appear without prearrangement. We relax and hear about a grandchild's good report card, a new place to eat that's good but doesn't cost half the retirement savings, a son's marriage that didn't work out. Folks walk over and sit a spell or find a shady spot and read and doze - kind of like a neighborhood front porch.

Not one house in our neighborhood has a front porch. We have covered doorways and lanais and solariums. We've swapped the porch rocking chairs and swings for PVC-pipe chairs and lounges. And we've swapped the early-evening intimacy of neighbors on front porches for air conditioning and television behind closed doors.

Time was, when supper was finished and dishes were washed and dried and put away, warm Southern evenings sent grown-ups to the front porch in search of a breeze. And sent kids in search of each other. Early evenings on Magnolia Lane in my Alabama hometown were like that - almost spiritual. Not that I thought it was spiritual then. All I thought of then was getting one of Grandmother's canning jars to catch lightning bugs or finding a good hiding place for kick-the- can. Every house on our street had a front porch of one kind or another. I reckon every house in town did. Not all the porches were the same, however. Some were Victorian wraparounds with bits of gingerbread and climbing roses. Some were antebellum wannabes with columns. But most were like the porches on Magnolia Lane: plain vanilla. A few mismatched chairs. A swing. Geraniums and ferns. Porch boxes of cascading fire-engine-red petunias - Mother's favorite - bordered our front porch. And we had ferns, lush from the tea leaves that Grandmother fed them after she'd made tea. …

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