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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sittin' on the front porch....

There's a song by Dolly Parton that has always painted such a vivid and realistic picture for me. It starts out "Sittin' on the front porch on a summer afternoon, a straightback chair on two legs, leans against the wall. Watch the kids a playin' with June bugs on a string, and chase the glowin' fireflies, as evening shadows fall." That's what we did as a kid too, and it's what we still do today. We may have called them lightnin' bugs back then. You knew the moment you saw lightnin' bugs, that it was summer. I can't wait to see them in a few weeks.
The porch has always been a place to gather and to gander, relax and reflect, entertain or retreat, and many times its the best place to do a little work. That is where I am right now. We celebrate our warmest welcomes there and bid our fondest farewells. It can be a step, a stoop or an outdoor room, but it has forever been an extension of our home.
Growing up we didn't use our front porch too much. Friends knew to come to the back door to visit. But, on a few occasions, we did roll out our sleeping bags on the front porch and sleep under the stars. It was a great camping spot. The dog would keep us company while she kept guard over us too. Bootsy, our collie growing up, also used the front porch as her watch tower. She could keep an eye on everything up there. If a salesman were to come by, they never knew she was around. They were not friends, so they didn't know to use the back door. Once they got to the top of the stairs and knocked on the door, there staring them down at the base of the stairs was Bootsy. The porch was her lair and she would let you in, but you were not getting out without her permission. One of my brothers bought several books once because she had the guy's book bag on one side of the railing while he hung from the other.
The house that I grew up in, just as my parents were building it. The porch was not huge, but we made good use of it. One of my brothers lives there today.
                                                                                                                                                              My neighbors back home would use their back porch for work and the front porch for relaxing. If they were on the back porch, it was to snap beans, hang clothes out on the line or make a batch of dandelion wine. The front porch had a great glider, a rocker and a cart full of geraniums all summer long. Everyone who walked by was welcome to stop and talk. Iced tea, lemonade or kool aid was in constant supply. I remember they had a set of green nubby glasses with matching pitcher to serve with. When their grand kids would visit, we would play out on the front porch for hours.
My grandmaw Barton had a sleeping porch. Today many people would think of it as a sun porch because it had three walls of nothing but windows. She would open the windows at night and it was always the right temperature for the best night's sleep you've ever had. The back porch had been closed in and she would bring all of her plants in to winter. At Christmas it was like walking through a jungle sometimes to get into the house.
My great grandparents on dad's side had a wonderful porch. It was big and had a swing or glider at one end. I don't remember much about my great grandparents, but I do remember sitting on that front porch and great granddaddy smoking a cigar. I thought it made him look like George Burns. He was always dressed in a white shirt and dress slacks, at least when we were there. I also remember that the pockets of his white shirts had dark spots and burn marks in them from tamping out his cigar and sticking it in his pocket. Their house sat right on East Main St. in Buckhannon, WV. The strawberry festival parade went right by their house, so they always had front row seats. I think we were there for a festival, but I was so young, I don't remember. I just remember being told about it. When my grand parents inherited the house, I went to visit for a couple of weeks one summer. I spent so many hours on that front porch. I thought of myself as an artist back then. I was taking art in school, so I decided to draw the house. I would sit a few hours across the street, just like a real artist would do, and look at the house as I would sketch. I also took Polaroids so I could sit on the porch and finish. I figured the lighting was best outside. I have no idea where that sketch ended up after that summer, but I sure would love to see it. I still have the Polaroid though.
The Polaroid of the house in Buckhannon, WV. Unfortunately the house is now gone. The horrific flooding in the mid 80's did so much damage to this part of town, and the house was torn down.
As I said, I am writing this while I sit on our porch today. We love our porch. It serves as a living room, dining room, as a great place to have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. We have family dinners out here as much as possible, gather with friends as often as we can and enjoy a meal just for ourselves too. We built is as a screen porch, so we make use of it about three quarters of the year. The cats enjoy it as much as we do, as we made sure to include a ledge for them to sit on and gaze out through the screen. We can see the skyline of our little town during the day and at night, the lights across town look like fallen stars in the distance. We hear the train whistle as it passes through town and the sound echoes up toward our porch. That reminds me of home too. I don't see any fireflies just yet, but I do hear the crickets begin to chirp. The night air is turning crisp as I finish this up, and the stirrings of neighbors are slowing down.
Soon though, those fireflies.... and those June bugs.
The best inspiration in the world. Our porch today.