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Twists & Turns:
The Importance of Porch Sitting

Judy Causey Love

Donuts on Cake

Most every new home built in America today comes with a two car garage, 3 to 5 bedrooms and a kitchen that could hold the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But something is missing in their structure. I’ll bet you can guess what it is. It’s a front porch.

Lots of things have gone by the wayside in architectural design in our towns and cities over the decades. Things like sidewalks, trees, buildings low enough to let the sky show overhead. But to me, one of the most important is the front porch.

The porch was always a place where you could sit and perhaps rock and wave to passing cars or walking neighbors. A place where you could observe the happenings of the birds in their nests and the clouds in the sky.

When Teddy and I were looking for our ‘forever’ home five years ago, I made up a list of things we wanted. His was pretty short. He requested it be fenced with an outbuilding in which to store his mower and power tools and a garage to keep our two cars safe. Either one of the buildings could be large enough to serve as a man-cave.

My list was much more extensive with lots of detail. In addition to the usual number of beds and baths, I wanted other things like a gas fireplace, a water-well, a Magnolia tree, a screened-in back porch and long, wide front porch.

In some instances, our lists overlapped. We both wanted a good sized piece of land and a fishing pond.
Today, we consider ourselves to be blessed because we got all of it. But don’t misunderstand. We also got a lot of things that we did NOT request like stinging fire ants, grass mutilating armadillos, and bird-sized mosquitoes that can make porch sitting a bit of a challenge in the summer.

But, truly, a front porch can be a place of peace. A nice, long porch conjures up calming visions of wooden rockers looking out over a yard where grasshoppers and birds share the sweet aroma of fresh-cut grass. A glass of cold iced-tea might sit on the round table between the rockers and perhaps a small hand fan to divert the attention of those mosquitoes.

(Pardon the footnote here, but I have been told that if you put up one or two bat houses on your property, they will drastically lower the amount of mosquitoes bothering you. Believe me, the bats aren’t nearly as noticeable as the insects. Besides, I don’t like those bug zappers with the light inside.)

A front porch can be a place of remembrance. Maybe you watched or helped a parent or grandparent shell peas or butterbeans from the garden. Maybe your family rocked and waved to everyone who passed and they waved back or stopped to chat a bit.

The front porch of our family home looked out on the jail behind the Courthouse in Magnolia many decades ago, which was not a great view, but my best memories are of the huge swing that my parents hung from the ceiling. The one where, as a kid, I became the engineer on a very big train. I also remember that my mom would use the front porch as a station to clean freshly caught fish or crabs from Lake Pontchartrain that would be part of the next delicious meal.

A front porch can be a place of safety. A place where one night as a teenager I slept quite comfortably. And no one could invade the house without encountering that big porch that acted like a barrier against the world.

But, the charm and peace that a porch evokes on a lazy evening as the sun melts below the horizon leaving a soft orange and yellow glow across the sky can automatically turn an ordinary house into a spectacular home.

Did you know there is a Porch Sitting Union of America? I don’t think anyone would be angry over that particular union when the man who founded it (Claude Stephens) simply wanted people to “Sit down a spell”.

According to Claude, when you sit on your front porch you are a part of your community. When you are closed off inside, you are not.

I totally believe that Claude was right. It’s a way to keep up with what’s going on in your area. If a police car speeds past with sirens wailing, porch sitters immediately turn to one another and ask, “Wonder what’s happened? Or if an ambulance goes by they might inquire of each other as to the well-fare of an injured neighbor. How are you going to engage about these things if you are stuck inside watching a rerun of The Golden Girls?

Now, there are porch sitting rules which everyone should adhere to. These are few and simple: Relax, feel the breeze, speaking is not required, read a book or take a nap and always, always, always leave your troubles somewhere else.

So, I say, come sit on the porch with me. The drinks are cold and the friendship’s free!

Donuts on Cake
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