A few months ago, my Dad gave me a briefcase full of reading materials he saved over the years. The materials in the briefcase were from the last three decades. Every time I open the briefcase, I find new treasures that result in bringing back memories.
Recently I have been reading articles in the Reminisce magazines from 1994-97. The article from July/August 1994, Our Front Porch Made Warm Memories of Summer, brought back memories of sitting on the porch at my grandpa (Buddy). My grandparents’ house was on the “main” street of a small town. Buddy and I would sit on the porch and wave to any car that drove by…it seemed like we were the town greeters and it was fun. We would also chat with neighbors and share stories of the day. I have not been back to my first home since 2004 so I decided to use a map app to see if I could find my first porch. I found the house and was able to see the porch.
NOTE: It was sad to see the deterioration and lack of landscaping but still brought back good memories.
By using a virtual tour, I could scroll up and down the street, through the neighborhood and the town. I spent a lot of time at the next-door neighbor’s porch and my dad’s sister lived on the same street. Her house had a covered front porch. Once I reminisced on my own, I had to share this with my mom and her sister. Below are some of the stories they shared with me:
Buddy and Granny had a closed porch (what I call a sunroom) and a stoop. The closed porch was not inviting to others but on rainy days it was nice to just sit and watch the rain and the cars on the highway go by. On a snowy winter night, it was beautiful and peaceful to watch the snow fall. The stoop (open porch) was an inviting area of the home. If you were sitting there, you could and would expect anyone who passed by to say a few words or sit and visit.
Back when mom and dad bought and remodeled the house there were windows across the front and on the sides of the front porch, with sidelights by the door and venetian blinds on all the windows. The siding was white and there were shrubs beside the steps and a tree in the front yard. Your grandma took pride in her garden of petunias and 4 o’clocks.
The neighbor’s porch was used by most of the neighborhood. It had a swing and chairs. If necessary, lawn chairs would be brought up to the front yard to accommodate more people. Being a small-town people knew each other and so many times walkers from other neighborhoods would stop by also. Our neighbors would visit and work, shelling peas, sewing quilt blocks or a variety of other chores.
Even as a kid I would sit with the adults until dark and enjoy the porch and the people. There were other porches in the neighborhood that were used in the evenings but none so much as our neighbor’s porch.
Your aunt’s porch had a swing too and neighbors sometimes gathered there in the evenings but the thing I really remember about that swing is how pleasant it was to sit out there and just enjoy day. And now while I don’t have a porch, I have the lanai and a glider and as I write this, I’m sitting listening to the rain and enjoying quiet time. It does not get much better than this.
The founder of the Professional Porch Sitters Union (PPSU), Claude Stephens (aka Crow Hollister) believed porch sitting was a way to create community. “When you’re on your porch you’re a part of your community. When you’re in your house you’re not.”
A porch community promotes face to face interaction and people connecting with one another. Social connections form and people share recollections from the day, memories of the past, and dreams for the future. The simple acts of relaxing and reflecting with others strengthens the community. This engagement leads to emotional well-being and happiness and scientific evidence supports the affect between happiness and health. I find that even if I am sitting on my porch alone I feel part of the neighborhood community. We live in at cal-de-sac so the traffic flow is limited but I carry on the tradition started with Buddy…I wave to anyone going by.
Porching isn’t just for small towns. It is needed now more than ever in cities and neighborhoods where we spend so little time thinking about the world outside the four walls we live and work within. Welcoming neighbors to our “porch” builds community. When people are connected within neighborhoods, their neighborhoods are healthier. As we build these connections throughout various neighborhoods, the anticipation is that our city as a whole will become healthier. Creating a sense of knowing, belonging, and connection to where we live and a renewed sense of the important role all people play is critical in making a community healthy and whole. Taft 2018