Hejira
the lost front porches
May 18. 2000

Where have all the front porches gone?

Do you notice that houses being built now just don't have them? I wonder why they're gone.

Today I drove past a porch full of people. They were all grouped together, some sitting on wicker furniture, others standing or playing on the sidewalk and streets. And something inside me ached to have a front porch again.

The porch that holds the most memories for me is my Nana's porch, on Bank Street, in Plains, PA. It was where my Grandmother and Great Aunt Babe were born, and only 3 blocks away from where my Grandmother and Grandfather eventually moved to raise my mother and her three brothers.

The memories of the porch and the house on Bank Street are dim now and forever stuck in the point of view of a young child. My Nana died when I was 8, and when she did, the time I spent on Bank Street ended and all the memories made there slowly began to fade.

The porch was enclosed, and essentially on the second floor, over the basement, so one had to climb some stairs to get to it from the outside. The glass windows faced west into the setting sun, and towards evening the bamboo blinds were pulled over them. I can still see the yellowish sunlight filtering through the blinds and illuminating the omnipresent dust in the air.

The porch was not large, but packed with many chairs, toys and an ancient aluminum chaise lounge that pinched me whenever I sat on it. The toys were all piled into an old toy box, as I remember. I don't recall exactly what the toys were, except that they were old and my mother and grandmother had played with them, too. There were some old lincoln logs, some pull toys and various baby dolls. My sister and my cousins and I, despite being surrounded by newer and more sophisticated toys, would always return to those dusty, fading things.

All of the generations sat on the porch and talked and enjoyed each other's company, all the way from my great grandmother Nana down to the newest baby. I miss the cross-generation communication. People shouldn't just be with their peers, we have so much to learn from each other.

It's been so long since I've even thought about that porch, my mind has to take a while to stretch that particular muscle and allow me to remember everything again. I get flashes of things...the toys painstakingly lined up on the sills of the large windows. Falling asleep midday in the oppressive heat of the small enclosed room. Eating so many meals of watermelon and sandwiches without the crusts on small card tables.

I think there should be more front porches. Less TV and less internet. Every kid deserves memories like the ones I have.

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