Friday, January 7, 2011

Front Porch Problems

There's no problem that a long sit on a front porch can't solve.

"Nobody thought much about the front porch when most Americans had them and used them. The great American front porch was just there, open and sociable, an unassigned part of the house that belonged to everyone and no one, a place for family and friends to pass the time."
--Rochlin, The Front Porch, in Home, Sweet Home

When builders deleted the front porch from construction of Dixie homes and replaced it with big white garages, with mouths that open in the evenings to gobble up the residents and open again in the mornings to spit them out, they did us a huge injustice. Now, not only do so many of us miss out on chatting up our neighbors about the weather, the creek water rising, and a cup of sugar, but a lot of people can't even call their neighbors by name.

And I've got a theory about the demise of the front porch and its affect on modern life. When the front porch disappeared from southern architecture, folks got so distraught that they either sped up, too deeply burying themselves in hurried busy-ness to ruminate on the glaring omission, or they went inside, plopped on their sofas, and distracted themselves from the trauma by hypnotically watching one television show after another.

And if you ask me, that's when people altogether quit talking to each other in that slow drawl that indicates a good story will shortly roll off the tongue. That's when folks forgot how to wave at just anybody, just because. That's when making money became more important than making memories or making friends. That's when we started fearing our neighbors, suspiciously eyeing, from behind blinds, the fellow walking down the sidewalk.

Most of all, that's when problems started brewing and people started ignoring them instead of solving them. Back when family members and friends gathered on the porch on a long afternoon or after the evening meal, they hashed out everything from which team oughta win the pennant race to how America should respond to Cuba to giving Little Jimmy the what's-for about his grades in school. And everybody slept better at night having shared the burden of carrying the weight of the world.

Although we have one now, and spend many an hour there, my husband and I haven't always had a front porch. But throughout the years we have managed to carve out perches on the public sides of our many different homes; conversational venues for ourselves, where we share an evening toddy and our views on local politics, world affairs, or the grass that needs cutting. We wave to passing drivers or shout "Hello" to a jogger or invite a friend out for a stroll to sit and jaw awhile. And sometimes we simply let the crickets talk it out for us.

Since I discovered the power of the porch, there hasn't been a day I can't face knowing that my front porch, in in all the forms it has taken - lawn chairs in the grass, the tailgate of my daddy's truck, a blanket on the lawn, the brick steps - awaits me at the end of it.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Find, create, claim your front porch. A place to sit, to slow down, to share, to reconnect, to watch the world go by, and to wave at just anybody, just because. A place to fearlessly face problems, big and small, with a soul mate, your children, your friends, the neighbor down the street whom you've been meaning to meet. Because there is absolutely no problem that a long sit on a front porch can't fix.

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