Front Porch Sittin’ by Peggy Bogaard-Lapp
We have lived on our street for just over 8 years. It’s a typical neighborhood, a few elderly residents still holding on, empty-nesters that are enjoying the extra room, some cohabitators, and those like us, with children. When we were looking at the house to buy, I hadn’t paid any attention to the neighborhood or whether there were kids around. I had just assumed there would be. After all, there were kids everywhere in the neighborhood I grew up in, so why not here too? In the first few months after we moved in, after I had the chance to look out the window (our home was under toddler rule at the time, and focused entirely on her) I realized that we were the Young Ones. We were surrounded by seniors. I took to calling it Geriatric Street. Of the twelve houses on the block, only three had a family with children. One house was empty after the owner died, one occupied by a recluse, and the one we called the “Stump People” house had a married couple that was less than friendly. The house across the street was soon empty as well, the elderly man passing away shortly after we settled in. I never did see any family members before or after. The neighborhood began to take on a weird feeling. I started to wonder if it was a sign. And really, it was. A sign that things change, people come and go, but the structure that we call home remains, to be made into a home for another family after we go.
Fast forward to now. Our neighborhood had evolved, of course, people shifting in and out. The recluse that lived alone for at least seven years has moved in with her son, selling her house to a fix & flip contractor. I made it a point to meet all of our neighbors, and Louise was one of my favorites. She was a crafter, and although she rarely left her home, she kept herself busy with little projects. I first met her in her driveway, at a yard sale she was having to “clear up some space.” Her son lived in town but rarely came over. I would check on her periodically, and if I noticed her garage door open or something out of place, I would call her. She was always “just fine, thanks.” But on the outside, her house looked sad and overgrown bushes hid the front door. In fact, several of the houses on our block began to look the same. Untended, and ignored. Most people today come home, open the door, step inside and you don’t see them again until the next day, going in reverse. Being a part of a neighborhood used to be the norm, it was where you made friends and had social connections. Over the last several decades that premise had faded away, until now waving at a neighbor is an unexpected and seemingly impulsive action. Our house where I grew up had a beautiful front porch, and my brother had built a brick flower box along the entire front of the house, something my mom was very proud of. She and dad would plant petunias each year that would cascade down the sides. We would sit on the front porch all summer long, after dinner, until the bugs started to bother us. Grandma had a redwood rocking chair, and she would sit there, most of the day actually, and watch the world from her seat. Not much ever happened, but she was there regardless. From the front porch, mom and dad waved to the neighbors driving past. They had discussions, planned vacations, covered the day’s events, and decided what to plant in the flower box next year. The front porch was also a meeting place for me and the hide-n-seekers that came out when it got dark.
Today, our front porch is laid with flagstone in a 12×12 area under a majestic 50 year old maple tree. It’s the best spot to be in the heat of summer, shady and cool. Last year we started Flamingo Friday, signaling to the neighbors that if the plastic pink flamingo was out in the yard, it meant that we were having a porch party and they were invited to join us (I sent a text with a photo of the flamingo to invite friends). We have spent endless hours in conversation, learning about our friends and neighbors, discussing things that are both important and not. We play music and discuss who was the greatest rock bank of the 80’s. The kids play in the yard while we watch – isn’t that amazing? They get to connect in the same way we did when were were kids, playing outside, making up games and racing bikes and scooters up and down the street. And at about 10 pm or so we wrap it all up.
As of last weekend, we have new neighbors! They bought Louise’s house. I can’t wait to introduce myself and explain about the flamingo, and invite them to join us. They have both already waved – a good sign!
A front porch is a gateway to the immediate world of your neighborhood. Sit on your front porch and see what happens.