Joco Diversions

June 18, 2013

Emily Parnell — Even on just a stoop, front-porch living can be grand

Maybe people are just more private than they used to be.

The kids have figured out where to find me in the mornings. Somewhere near my coffee mug, for sure, but there’s one place I go any time the weather allows. Outside, in front of the house. I pull on a jacket if it’s cool, pour myself a cup of wakeup juice, and out I go.

It’s odd, we have a big back yard with a patio and chairs. It’s closer to the coffee pot — you’d think that’s where I’d want to be. Maybe it’s the voyeur in me — the one that wants to check in on neighbors. Oh, not my human neighbors, I don’t worry much about what they’re doing, but I like to see how the baby bunnies are progressing with their hopping, see which birds now have empty nests, and I always enjoy a visit from the fat little toads that live in our landscaping.

I have to wonder why houses no longer have front porches. I’ve lived in six different houses, and of them, only one had a true front porch. It was covered by roof, ran the full width of my little Westport bungalow and offered a swing, a rocking chair and several other seats for guests. On it, I served cold beverages and waffle breakfasts, chatted with my buddies, made “friends” out of “neighbors,” read books and relaxed. I could not have enjoyed it more.

Maybe people are just more private than they used to be. A front porch opens a domain between “at home” and “out” that isn’t as private as a back deck. Finding select friends through a browser window may feel more comfortable than facing random neighbors from the front step. But I do both — sometimes even in my pajamas.

My kids have followed the scent of my coffee and have become front step dwellers as well. We spend mornings and evenings there whenever the weather and mosquitoes will allow. Although we don’t have a true front porch, our house was retrofitted for front porch living with a stoop that has room for two, a bench and a climbing tree, perfect for two little monkeys. We even have potted mint, basil and rosemary — a built-in snack bar for the kids that become dinner and smoothies for the family.

It seems we spend most of our time watching things fly. Birds, bats circling above, toads launching themselves forward, lightning bugs illuminating their little bug bottoms and the fastest little butterflies you’ve ever seen. I never knew my kids to be so still until the day they discovered that if they stood very still, a butterfly would land on them. If they held their finger in the air, the butterflies would light on their hands. Year after year, the same butterflies (or at least their kin) have returned to use my kids’ heads as landing pads.

Someday, I will have a front porch again. I can picture how it could be built on this house, or perhaps we’ll move. But I won’t wait until I get one to continue my front porch living.

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