The lost art of front porch sitting

“If the world had a front porch like we did back then,
We’d still have our problems but we’d all be friends.”
—by Tracy Lawrence

A friend called Saturday afternoon. I answered the phone, then went to the front porch and sat down, got comfortable and enjoyed the conversation.

The front porch on my house is big. It spans the full 45-foot width of the house and is all under the roof line. That means it is protected from weather and harsh sunlight, and also means it is more than half the square footage of the first house I owned many years ago.

Potted plants and a variety of furniture adorns the big old porch. The focal point is a wicker love seat and two chairs originally purchased for watching sunsets from the back porch where we lived on Lake Murvaul in East Texas One of the obligatory reproduction park benches and a couple of old rocking chairs provide additional places to sit a spell.

It’s a really great front porch, and I really enjoyed sitting there Saturday afternoon…which makes me really wonder why I don’t sit out there more often than I do.

Front porch sitting is a wonderful pass time, a relaxing ending to any day, and can be excellent therapy. My grandparents were avid front porch sitters. If they ever missed a day, it was a sure bet someone was deathly ill, the weather was awful, or some similar catastrophic circumstance.

The small white frame house at 323 Cypress Street in Pittsburg, Texas, where my father was raised, had a small wooden-floor front porch—small compared to mine today in Center, Texas. Two old rockers fit the porch perfectly and were year-round permanent fixtures. As long as company didn’t exceed two additional people, another one or two chairs recruited from the living room could be squeezed in. It was a little crowded, but also sort of cozy for friends or family. And, that included just about everybody invited to sit on the porch, because if they were not friends or family before the visit, they surely would be before the evening was over.

The routine seldom varied. With supper over and the kitchen cleaned, everyone migrated to the porch. Things got underway by simply relaxing and visiting about anything that came up, but conversations typically were a recap of the day’s highlights. Maybe a discussion about one of my grandfather’s trees. They were his hobby before he retired and his passion after his paycheck days were over. Huge pecan trees lined the front of the house, trees he planted when they moved in the house in 1930. The back yard was shaded all day with just about any variety of fruit tree imaginable.

The mail was another frequent topic. Mail was a big deal then. The postman’s daily delivery was a highly anticipated event.. Things like the newspaper, a Fort Worth Star-Telegram every day, or a Pittsburg Gazette once a week. Perhaps a letter or postcard from a family member like “Aunt Ruby” in Fort Worth, my grandmother’s sister. They were all read and talked about on the porch. Most family news traveled via the mail as long distance phone calls were reserved for birth and death events. It was just too expensive for chit chat.

The sound of a train coming might prompt my grandfather to reach for his pocket watch before announcing something like, “The 6:15 to Texarkana’s right on time this evening.” Habits formed working for the railroad from the age of 13 were hard to break. He always carried his pocket watch and he knew the time of every passing train and its destination.

We knew it was time to go in when my grandmother softly started singing a hymn. While my grandfather’s favorite was “Blessed Assurance,” whatever the song for the evening was, songbooks weren’t needed. They both knew the words to every verse.

Just like my grandparent’s front porch, the mood on my front porch last Saturday afternoon was perfect for relaxing and chatting with a friend, albeit via the modern contrivance of cell phones. In fact, sitting on the porch was so enjoyable that when the chat was over, I lingered a while longer before leaving. A couple of neighbors walked by. We exchanged a “howdy” wave, and I smiled thinking they must have suspected something was terribly amiss since I never sit on the front porch.

Oh, and those two rocking chairs that were front porch fixtures at my grandparent’s house for decades? Although they are in need of repairs, I still have them. Maybe I’ll get them fixed now, add them to my front porch collection and spend more time porch sitting.

Not only is it relaxing and therapeutic, it reminds me of summers evenings at my grandparent’s house many years ago. Plus, it’s also kind of fun making the neighbors wonder what I’m up to.

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas, Light and Champion (http://www.lightandchampion.com) and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune newspapers (http://www.tribnow.com).

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