Virginia summers are sticky, filled with lightening bugs and cicadas humming in the background. When it gets deep into the season (which is basically the entirety of the season), starting in early July and running all the way through September, everyone retreats. From the middle of the day until about 6 p.m., we Southerners know to avoid the scorching overhead sun.
Growing up, we did so on my grandmother's porch.
I grew up in Henrico Country, outside of Richmond, Virginia, with my mom, my siblings, and my grandparents. My grandparents owned (and still own) the house we all lived in, but we all refer to it as "Granny's house." Because, to be frank, Granny ran things (and still does).
And what Granny cares most about is the outer beauty of her home. You could call her the queen of Southern outdoor living. She has a porch, sunroom, patio, and deck. But the porch was, is, and always will be the most important; it's the central meeting place for family gathering — more so than the kitchen, living room, or dining room.
It started as a screened-in porch. Granny decided to get glass doors installed in the summer of 1978, after a neighborhood dog charged through the screens and tore everything up. Originally it was supposed to cost $5,000 to put in glass, but my grandfather, a Baptist preacher and finesse king, was able to get one of his congregation members to connect him with a hook-up for $500.
If you were to visit my grandmother, you would not enter through the front door unless you were "big company." Friends and family members would enter through the back, so you could admire her flowers and lawn — once just hard red clay, now made up of zoysia grass that looks like a green carpet inviting enough to lay down on — on your way to the porch. There you might get a glass of lemonade or iced tea, since the porch directly adjoins to the kitchen. A round glass bistro table with chairs to match are tucked in the corner, catty-cornered from a wicker love seat.
I remember when she cooked, which wasn't often, she'd fix sweet cornbread, black-eyed peas, and greens cooked with smoked turkey, and we would take it onto the porch to keep from messing up the kitchen.
All summer activities usually took place on the porch: heated debates about world news, lazy conversations with neighbors, quiet reading of the news (my grandparents) or story books (me and my brother and sister). It's where we watched the Olympics unfold every four years on their ancient black-and-white dial-knobbed television.
Granny's porch was where we did homework in the early fall; we'd wait out hurricanes and heat under Grandaddy's watchful eye, while Granny busied herself with knitting or reading.
Granny's front porch is my dog-nephew's favorite place to lounge. And these days, Granny even uses her porch as a makeshift greenhouse for her abundant plants in the colder months.
I moved away last year and now live in an apartment in Detroit, where I don't have a porch to sit on, which is the one thing I miss about home. I'll always hold memories close of sitting on my grandmother's porch with a cold glass of tea, soaking in the sun.