I live in a community built to resemble a by-gone era. Most of the homes in my neighborhood are reproductions of Victorian, Federal or Craftsman style homes built with a front porch. This is one of the many reasons my wife and I purchased a home in this development because our “purple-painted-lady” has charming character and a wrap-around front porch. On most weekend afternoons, after doing yard work or several “honey-dos”, I can be found sitting in a comfortable white wicker chair armed with a book, a beverage and a Belvedere.
Neighbors will pass and wave on their walks with their dogs and baby strollers. Children will ride their bikes or scooters along the sidewalk to the sound of the clicky-clack of each of their wheels passing over the divided portions of concrete. Off in the distance one can hear the sounds of birds chirping, buzzsaws sawing, or babies singing for their afternoon bottles. This symphony of sounds brings a sense of certainty and serenity. Often passer-bys will stop and say, “Hello” or more familiar folks will ask, “what are you reading this week”.
A front porch allows for interaction in a community to take place. Most modern homes are built with a back deck, which I have as well for those occasional times when I wish to have privacy in my thoughts or dwell on ideas alone. Yet a front porch brings one in contact with neighbors and strangers walking by. Children and their parents with all manner of sporting equipment pass by on their way to the local park to play, exercise, smile and skip in the expectation of soon having fun and recreation.
My front porch has been the scene of countless parties, picnics, private conversations, passionate debates, playful prattling, political gatherings, profitable projects, public prose, and putrid joke-telling. Life has been lived on my front porch. There was a time when Americans used to know their neighbors because everyone lived outside on full display on their front porch, especially in the Spring, Summer and Fall. If a neighbor’s kid did something in front of your house that they were not supposed to be doing you could yell out to them to “stop it or I’ll let your folks know”. It was a deterrent to mischief. Ask most people, “do you know the names of the people living more than two doors down from you” and their response is likely to be a shrug. I happen to know most of my neighbors simply because I like sitting on my front porch.
When cars drive down my street people will often slow down and point at my house as they gleefully-gawk at the whimsical woodwork which adorns my home. When they realize a person is sitting on the porch they wave. I smile and wave back with a homespun “howdy” or “hello”. A homeowner’s pride swells up inside of me but more importantly, a connection is made. Several times those gawkers have found a home in the neighborhood and after moving nearby, they will be out walking and will stop to remind me that I was the friendly fellow who waved and welcomed them to the neighborhood.
Front porches build a sense of belonging and bonding that is sorely needed in our communities today. Front porches allow for connectivity and community that people are desperately looking for. A front porch is part of the fabric of a neighborhood that encourages building relationships, fosters conversations and allows for people to interact in ways that are no longer common, yet should be. When looking for a place to call home my suggestion is to find a neighborhood with a front porch you can live life on. And if you’re in my neighborhood stop by and sit awhile on my front porch.