During the past few days, porch sitting has been on my mind. On Friday, WWJ radio cited a story from “The Wall Street Journal” about how porches are making a resurgence for the first time since the 1990s. It seems we all want to go back to simpler times – visiting with our neighbors and re-connecting with the community, a pastime which has somehow fallen by the wayside.
When I heard that story, I instantly thought of my grandmother whose large, semi-enclosed front porch was the go-to spot every night after dinner all Summer long. The neighbors on St. Clarens Avenue, as well as any friends or family who happened to be visiting, already had their daily morning ritual of gathering in my grandmother’s cozy kitchen for a traditional kaffeeklatsch to kibitz and gossip and while away a few hours. Once Summer arrived, the same group would assemble every night to sit on the porch. My aunt and grandmother lived together and once they were finished with dinner and dishes, they’d go onto the front porch. Once Minnie and Frances appeared on the porch, it was the signal to head on over. They each had their own large, comfy wicker chairs which were permanent fixtures on the porch from late Spring through the Fall, however, they would drag all the kitchen chairs out on the porch every night. If someone arrived late and no chairs were available, well – you just went home … and got your own and brought it over. As the evening wore on, a lively discussion about the affairs of the world, mixed in with a little gossip would ensue. Just before nightfall, my aunt would disappear into the house to scoop out ice-cream into huge bowls for all the visitors. They used to buy the ice-cream by the two-gallon bucket at the end of the street in a bulk warehouse store called Knob Hill Farms. When everyone finished their ice-cream, and the silver spoons rattled as they scraped the bottom of the respective bowls, the fireflies and mosquitoes were out in full force, so it was time to call it a night. I have many fond memories of porch sitting at my grandmother’s house because we never had a large porch on our house in Canada, nor here, so it was kind of a novelty for my mom and me whenever we went to visit.
Well, this morning when I left for my walk, the very first thing I saw as I closed the screen door, was my new neighbor’s house across the street. They had assembled a group of kitchen chairs in a semi-circle around their small front porch. A wealth of memories came flooding back when I saw this, even though my grandmother’s porch was much larger.
I’ve been meaning to write about two friendly ladies I see every morning. On my usual route to Council Point Park, on Pagel Street, I pass two women who sit on a porch every morning from Spring to Fall. One woman is always in her chenille bathrobe, so I gather she is the homeowner, and the visitor, dressed in street clothes, sits right next to her. In the cooler weather, they are both wrapped in cozy comforters while they sip their warm beverage. We exchange the same pleasantries every morning – whether the weather people got the forecast right, barking dogs, loud firecrackers and if I’ve seen anything interesting at the Park. I never visit for more than two or three minutes and then I am on my way, with a wave to them as they call out “have a nice day dear”.
Another few houses I pass by bear mentioning as well in this post about porch sitting. The picture above belongs to an elderly couple who, along with their little dog, are stationed on the porch whenever I pass by. They live on a busy street and all walkers or passersby never fail to call out a friendly greeting to them.
Finally, a house on Emmons, has a huge porch which is reminiscent of my grandmother’s porch, because it is wooden, has high railings and is nearly enclosed. From what I can see, a rug, dark-brown rattan furniture with plump chintz seat cushions, and a table with an ornate lamp and a vase of flowers adorn the porch. But most important of all, is the huge flag which is anchored to the front of the porch and says “friends and family gather here”.