Some of my favorite memories from childhood revolve around our front porch.
Our camp house stood on a hillside next to Sloss Hollow Road. The pine boards on the outside walls were covered with imitation brick siding. That’s a fancy way of saying tarpaper with grit on one side was made to look like bricks.
The place was unremarkable, except for the front porch that spanned the width of the house. On one end was a squeaky swing that hung on chains attached to the rafters. From early spring to late autumn, I entertained myself on that swing each evening while waiting for my dad to get home from work.
I could hear him coming before he came into view. The hubcaps on the old Pontiac station wagon made a whistling sound as he approached. When I heard the whistling, I stepped off the porch and waited for him on the front steps. Inside, I could hear the clatter of forks and spoons on plates as my mom set the table for supper.
After stepping out of his car, he’d stand there and stretch the miles off his legs before heading inside. He’d act like he didn’t see me sitting a few feet away. When he did, he’d snatch me up under his arm and carry me into the kitchen like a “sack of taters.” That short jiggling journey made me giggle uncontrollably.
Our whole family sat down and ate supper together every night.
After supper, Daddy usually went to the front porch and smoked a few cigarettes while watching lightning bugs and taking stock of the day. Sometimes neighbors would holler from the next yard or from across the road to share some hometown news or get a garden update. I miss those times on that old front porch.
Life moves fast. These days it seems we have little time to spend on front porches. In fact, a lot of folks don’t have front porches. Instead of unwinding before bed to the sound of whip-o-wills and train whistles, we’re glued to TVs, computers, and smartphones. Our bliss is stolen by the harsh glow thrown off by electronic light.
When we built our house in 1983, the floor plan we chose included a stoop, but the old folk would have chided me: “There’s barely enough room out there to put a comfortable chair. Where will you shell your peas? And where are you going to put your swing?”
At the time I was too busy working at a job, going to school, and climbing a career ladder that leaned against a wall somewhere in the city. When I got home in the evenings, there was little time for front-porch sitting.
After I retired, we built an arbor over our stoop and planted jasmine. Beside the stoop, we put a garden bench in the shade of the water oak. These days you can often find me sitting on the garden bench reading or watching the birds and squirrels. There aren’t that many cars that come down our dead-end road, but when they do, I always wave as they pass. Sometimes a neighbor will pull into the drive and sit with me long enough to share some news.
It’s not a front porch, but it’s the next best thing.
Happy Father’s Day.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, "Life Goes On," is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.