As I noted yesterday, we're musing on porches, and you should probably read the last few posts to catch up before reading this one. I want to go get a cup of coffee anyway, so you go read (from the bottom up) and we'll meet back here in say 10 minutes? Good.
Welcome back, let me settle in.
Okay, so above is our former house in Beaumont. Had a lot of good features, very roomy, lots of entertaining space etc. But it was porch-challenged -- more of a covered entry way than a porch.
We lived like that for maybe 10 years, -- but always of fond memories of a house we had in Slidell, LA, where we could sit out on the porch for just a few minutes and a neighbor would come by. And then another and another. Pretty soon, everyone went and got their law chairs and moved the confab to the sidewalk where the kids were all running their bikes and wagons.
But this house had no sidewalk and no porch. The neighbors just didn' congregate outside very much. It was one of those porch-poor suburban subdivisions. Built in the early '80s.
One day we were at Lowes where they had a clearance sale on a bench. I told my wife I was going to buy it.
"Where are you going to put it?" she asked.
"In the front yard," I said.
"Can you even do that?" she wanted to know.
"My house, I can do it."
So, with her thinking I had gone over the edge of a few too many benches, we left with our new treasure.
I found a place just to the side of the front walkway and anchored it there.
Looked strange. But it was a comfortable place to sit under the big oak trees and catch the last rays and breeze of the day. In the mornings we would sit and drink coffee on us.
Wasn't long before neighbors started seeing us on the bench and would come over and sit and visit. It became a real active place since my wife always likes a lot of people to talk to.
Soon, neighbors were bringing beverages over to share and we all would sit there sipping on our milks watching the kids play.
Then we started noticing that when we came back from a weekend out of town, there were beverage containers on the bench -- neighbors had used it in out absence to sit and visit, catch up on things and watch the kids play. We were actually excited to see that.
As you probably have noted, it was a bench, not a porch. Or was it? What are the minimum qualifications for a porch? Wood deck -- I've seen concrete ones. Covered? seen many that weren't. Attached to the house? Who says?
Maybe it didn't meet a lot of the qualifications of what you think a porch is. But, this "virual porch" did have the most important one: It brought people together -- gave them a sharing place, a place of comfort -- not locked in. A place to keep watch over the games and imaginations of their children.
I say it was a porch. It was up close to the house, but it would have been a porch if it was 50 feet away.
The sadness of all this, is that our house designers, our subdivision builders couldn't capture that. Porches are a technology. A technology of a day before video games, internet and cable tv. House designers of the day worked them into the houses they built with great flair -- not just because they were place to draw people together -- which they did. But the greatly designed porches were an advertisement: "We know the importance of getting together casually and sharing with our neighbors." So they put them out front -- to advertise that savoir faire of their owners.
Maybe porches are not the technology of our day. But there is no age that doesn't find great worth in neighbors sitting and going over their sorrows and victories.
And in every age we will find a way to do that. We will build the technology it takes -- my little attempt at that is what the programmers of our day call a hack -- what the jargon file defines as
"2. n. An incredibly good, and perhaps very time-consuming, piece of work that produces exactly what is needed."
Below is the bench in use -- my wife, Linda, and son, Shawn, are sitting and Shawn's wife Sarah is standing. Exactly what was needed.