The First Reader and I were sitting on the front porch this morning, sipping coffee and talking. It’s not that it was nice outside. No, it’s pouring rain enough that twice already this morning we’ve gone to put the dog out and she has communicated clearly that she Did Not Want to go Out There where it is Wet! However, for New Year’s Eve in Ohio, it’s relatively balmy out there on the nicely covered and deep porch. So we bundled up, he in his heavy robe, I in my wool cardinal, and took our steaming cups out into the pre-dawn darkness.
We talked of many things, as we often do during these brief morning meetings where the children are still sweetly sleeping and not being interruptive. Most of them are irrelevant to this post – we do very much appreciate that both of us are having nice long breaks from work, which allows a level of relaxation we rarely enjoy. What led me to write, however, was the porch itself. We were discussing how nice it is to have this sheltered place where we can sit and enjoy the outdoors without having to be in the rain. He wants any house we own to have a porch, he told me. Not one like our neighbors across the street, a little postage stamp just enough to keep you from getting wetter whilst you unlock the door to go in. No, a wide porch with a good roof and room for plenty of chairs is the ticket.
He uses the porch frequently, as he won’t smoke inside. I use the porch often when the weather is mild, being more fragile than he when the temperatures sink below 50. The kids… pretty much only use it when there is someone out there they want to talk to. If we have a friend over they will come sit and listen to the adults, interrupting occasionally. If it’s just the parental units, they will come out rarely and interrupt to talk to us about something important, like their video game server being laggy or their work schedule which is posted on the refrigerator. But otherwise, they much prefer the climate controlled house, where the computers live, to the porch where the amusements are watching raindrops fall, or in better weather birds singing in the nearby woods.
Porches are no longer a vital part of life, the First Reader mused. In fifty years, since the rise of air conditioning, they have fallen from favor, being used for decorative displays if at all. And as I pointed out, they are more a Southern thing, anyway. I’ve lived a lot of my life where a porch was only usable for a few months out of the year. Not like this sitting out on New Year’s Eve listening to the rain.
Times change. Cultures shift, sometimes in ways we don’t really notice. We have communally retreated to the great indoors, away from the heat, humidity, bugs, chill, rain, dust, and dirt of the porch sitting. It’s rare now to travel down Main Street in some small American town while waving a neighborly hello at folks on their porches – because inside was sweltering and outside at least offered a breath of air.
The First Reader said he’d always want a porch. But he’d build a house with no windows. Like a hobbit hole. I want windows. And a porch, and a garden, and… I want spring. So I can set on the porch for longer without getting a chill.
Happy New Year to all, and may 2019 be a good one for you. I plan to spend more time front porch setting, even if it’s with my laptop open and writing while listening to birdsong. How about you?