"Without her front porch, I would never have known she existed."
Remember Andy of Mayberry? In the evenings, the town residents would sit out on the porch and exchange pleasantries. They’d say “howdy,” and ask about the garden or comment on the weather. Just being neighborly.
In this century, we lost that sense of community in the busy-ness of life, the constant activities of the kids, the heavy demands of work, and the power of computers and electronic devices that pull us inside and away from others.
But lately, amid this global pandemic, front porches, balconies, and patios everywhere are being used again. We are standing on them and applauding healthcare workers and first responders. We are playing instruments and singing songs in the open air of our front stoops. Car caravans are driving by with signs as we stand outside to let us know we’re not alone when we celebrate special occasions isolated from our friends and families.
Porches and the advent of “Porchraiture”
There’s even a new type of photograph being taken on the family porch during our shelter-in-place period that we’ll look at in future years and remember,
“Ah. I remember that. It was during the Corona pandemic and we were going stir crazy.”
Termed “Porchraits,” many photographers are doing free family photoshoots while families depict their coping strategies — posing on the porch — sometimes in costume, sometimes with props. Always with humor and courage.
There is power in the porch to connect us to others. We only have to learn to use it again.
Important events happen on porches. Countless contests of jacks. First kisses. The sharing of secrets, the fellowship of friends. Cool drinks. Conversations, confessions, connections.
A porch is a bridge to the outside world
Years ago, I lived in a neighborhood in Kentucky. At the entrance to the subdivision was an old farmhouse that had stood for years. The owner probably didn’t want to sell to developers. Every day, I’d come home from work and drive by that old homestead to see a wrinkled, elderly woman sitting on her front porch in an old green metal glider.
Long, lean, and very old, she’d be settled there reading a romance novel.
“How wonderful,” I thought, “to want to read romance novels even when you’re old and the chance for love has long disappeared. And how nice it is that she wants to sit outside and connect with the world.”
This gray, grizzled woman was a reassuring presence. She proved daily that growing old didn’t mean being closeted in the house or closing your mind to adventure. You could still sit outside, smile at people, and know that you were not alone.
Without her front porch, I would never have known she existed.
Sitting outside was the way she could view the world around her; it was the way the world around could acknowledge her existence. Seeing this lady almost daily heavily influenced my belief that a porch, that bridge to the outside world, makes a home complete.
Porch-sitting is popular again
Who knew that my longing to sit and contemplate without the harried activities of daily life would come true? Who could predict that we would return to a habit of sitting outside as our grandparents did? It’s hard to believe that my longing for Sheriff Andy Taylor’s routine of front-porch sitting, strumming the guitar, talking to his son, and working up a tremendous taste for ice cream is actually happening.
Hopes of a restful Mayberry-like existence are reflected in the big wicker swing on my front porch. In warm weather, that’s where you’ll find me, journaling, writing, mending, folding laundry.
Wave as you go by. Stop on the sidewalk. Chat from six feet away. Connect with me. Connect with nature. Connect with the town. In our pandemic-stricken world, sitting on the porch brings us together, an old habit resurrected and one that I’d like to preserve.
I recently went back to my old hometown in Kentucky. I was sorry to find that not a trace remains of the older woman and her porch. Her house has been torn down and made into an asphalt parking lot for a nearby church. Her favorite seat for relaxing, the old green glider, has long been rummaged off or given to relatives.
It was as if she had never been — except for the fact that my connection with her stays unbroken.
I can only hope that as I sit swinging on my front porch, watching the world, waving to passersby, reading whatever romance I can into the world, I am carrying on the legacy of that older woman I never met, but felt I knew.
Her message: You’re never too old or too isolated to step out on the porch, look forward, and connect with the world.
Whether you know it or not, your presence matters, now more than ever.