Friday, May 8, 2009

Front Porch Culture

I just read a book that was written by a woman who had lived her entire life in the south and she wrote briefly about the importance of the front porch. I am a northerner but I have very fond memories of the love & friendship that cultivates on a front porch.
As a child, our neighbors across the street from our home were our only neighbors (lots were very large) and our association with them united us as a "family". The J family had lived in our community since the days that their relatives had purchased their property from the Indians. Early settlers that built "ribbon farms". Lake front (to provide water) extending inland for a few miles. Eventually selling lots of land to provide new comers space where they built elaborate homes for their retreat in the summer. Summer homes turned into year-round residences. The J family had a substantial yard but even better they had a historical home with a wrap around porch.
Mr. J (I'll call him T) was epileptic & the family will provided him w/a live in nurse for his lifetime. M, his live in nurse was a divorced woman who had one grown daughter & never re-married because her ex-husband was "to pay alimony until she died." They were in their 60's -70's when we became friends. They had a beagle, Pepper and a housekeeper who was not a live in but was required to wear a uniform when she came once a week. Her name was Cora, she was a colored woman who's family drove her to the J's home from Detroit. She ate her lunch in the kitchen while she watched her "stories." This was in the late 70's & 80's. Time stood still where I lived.
T & M became our closest friends and the grandparents that I did not have (mine had passed on long before).
T would call us up "Girls (my mother, sister & myself) Cora just made a white cake w/coconut frosting & some fresh lemonade, meet us on the front porch". Phone calls like this beckoned us over all summer long. My mother would reciprocate with dinners & desserts but one thing remained all spring & summer..we always met on their front porch.
This front porch was covered by shrubbery so any person walking by could be seen but we could not be seen or heard. Ahh..the gossip. I'm sure you can imagine. My hometown (back then)was the kind of place that if you mentioned someones last name. You heard it all..everything from as far back as anyone could remember. So you not only heard that Mrs. Something or other was divorcing you also heard what her great grandmother had done. Unbelievable..I smile as I recall all of this because it might sound vicious but I assure you, it wasn't.
Some of my happiest memories are of the 5 of us relaxing together & enjoying each others company on that front porch. Our friendship was love.

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