My front porch is nothing fancy. Tucked away on a six-acre farm an hour's drive from the nearest Whole Foods, it's a plain '40s-era slab of concrete and brick under a modest overhang supported by scrolled iron posts.
But it looks out on a meadow where wrens and wood thrushes sing. A peach tree at one end provides shade while swallowtails, bees, and a hundred other pollinators dance among the zinnias and Mexican sunflowers. Hummingbirds sip from the purple hyacinth bean vines that curve lazily through the scrollwork.
I may live far from the madding crowd, but sitting on my porch, I'm fully connected to the web of life.
In celebration of the porch, here are five experiences that were unforgettable precisely because they unfolded on a porch.
1. Snapping Butter Beans
One of my earliest memories is of snapping butter beans on the deep-eaved front porch of my Aunt May's Charleston "double." If I had a nickel for every pea I shelled or bean I snapped as a kid, I'd have been able to retire years ago.
And although I complained mightily, I loved the taste of butter beans in summer, and I love even more recalling how it felt to sit at my mama's feet as we shelled masses of peas and beans and they gossiped and waved to passersby. Aunt May died in the '80s; Mama two years ago. Memories like these I treasure above gold.
2. My First Kiss
This was not the first kiss, exactly, but the first kiss I actually liked, where the excitement about the boy merged with my adolescent hormones to make this bizarre idea of letting someone touch his tongue to my tongue erotic.
It was a piazza, or side porch. I remember the creak of the porch swing. The fact that we were almost in public, out of sight but within hearing of the adults inside, but screened from the street by tall shrubs and lattice, made it that much more of a thrill.
3. The Best Night's Sleep Ever
I attended a fancy Charleston girl's school that had no tradition of prom. But it did have a tradition of "junior-senior" parties at the beach, approved and not chaperoned by adults. I remember music and laughter, a bonfire on the beach, and as the hour grew later, my tipsy friends drifted indoors to crash on couches or double- and triple-up in the beds.
I ended up on the screened-in front porch, in a hammock, under a quilt, watching the moon set and listening to the ocean pound the shore. I have never slept more peacefully or soundly. And if I ever build a dream house, it will have to have a sleeping porch. It's just a rule.
4. Making Ice Cream for the 4th of July
I have few memories of my grandfather, for he died when I was only 6, but in this one, he pulled out the ice cream maker (I had no idea there was such a thing!) and allowed us kids to take turns at the crank on the porch of his farmhouse deep in the country.
I remember the laughter of my mom and dad and aunts and uncles and cousins. The sun sinking. The lightning bugs sparking the front meadow like so many miniature torches in the gathering dark. Most importantly, my grandfather's face, his "Indian" features lit by his seldom-seen smile. The ice cream was peach! And the taste? Unforgettable.
5. A Grown-Up Garden Party
Imagine a lovely summer night on the rear verandah of a rambling Arts and Crafts bungalow in Charlottesville, Virginia. Soft murmurs from the garden and from around the beer keg, you and your friends singing along to old-time tunes — "Fair and Tender Ladies," "Good Night, Irene," "All the Pretty Horses" — while a seven-piece string band plays. If it sounds like pure magic, believe me, it was.
So those are my porch memories. Notice how many are about other people. That's what porch life is all about — connection, whether to nature, or those we love. Lord knows we could use more of that today. Now go out and make some porch memories of your own!