Watching the world go by from my front porch

A friend recently recalled how she and her parents used to sit on their front porch, drink a few beers and enjoy just being with each other on warm summer evenings. Her parents both died within the past two years and I am saddened by my friend’s loss, but her reflections on the simple joy of sitting on a front porch brought a smile to my face.

People don’t spend their leisure time just relaxing out front the way we used to. Many newer homes don’t even have a proper front porch. They have been replaced by backyard patios and decks that provide homeowners with more privacy. This change has created places where people can retreat from the world. We have good reasons for separating ourselves from everyone else. Life can be overwhelming and the news too often features stories about others who have been robbed or injured.

Even though I understand why people may want to withdraw to their backyards, we’ve lost something by not spending more time on our front porches. People can no longer walk up to us as we sit out front and stop for a short chat. I remember my grandmother spending her evening playing cards on a friend’s front porch. She looked forward to their regular gatherings during hot summer months.

My wife and I live in a 113-year-old Queen Ann Victorian house with a porch that dominates the front and part of the south side of our home. My favorite times to sit out front is early in the morning and in the evening. Something about the promise of a new day and reflecting on the end of one makes these two periods the perfect for being outside.

From the chair I sit on in the mornings I can watch joggers trudge on by and wave back at them as they shout, “Good morning.” There is a middle-aged man who walks an old black lab that comes by the same time every day. The sound of birds greeting the sun fills the air, blending with the rumble of cars and trucks taking people to their jobs. By the time I have finished my second cup of coffee, the slow pace of the early morning sunrise has been replaced with the hectic tempo of modern living.

The small town I live in starts to slow down after dinnertime. From my perch I sometimes see a gaggle of girls or a pack of teenage boys striding by on the front sidewalk, oblivious to everything around them. Occasionally, someone on a bike will pass, followed by the same black lab I saw in the morning pulling his owner along for the evening walk. Cars and trucks amble along the street in much less of a hurry than they were just 12 hours earlier.

Then there is the old couple who stroll past. They always wave and say, “Good evening.” I can tell they have been together for a long time by the way they walk side-by-side as equals. They seem to communicate without talking. The bond between them comes from years of being lovers and best friends. They have made a lifelong commitment to each other, one they don’t even think about any more. It has just become a part of who they are.

While reflecting how many times I’ve seen this couple, I couldn’t help but think about my friend’s parents. Her mom and dad must have appeared the same way as the old couple as they travelled through life. It is a beautiful thing to watch.

Yes, I’m saddened by my friend’s loss. However, I’m happy she has such fond memories of enjoying such a humble thing as hanging out with her mom and dad on a warm summer evening. We record the major events in our lives, such as weddings and graduations. Yet, the small things that we share with loved ones are only kept in our memories. In my opinion, those simple delights are what makes life worth living.

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