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Porches ... the New Deck

August 18, 2008 - Phyllis Sigal
"I'm jealous," was the response my son gave when he asked what I was doing during a recent phone call.

What was I doing? I was merely sitting on my porch.

Sitting on my front porch is one of my greatest joys – and obviously, one that has been passed onto the next generation. In fact my daughter's prerequisite for her next apartment is that it have a porch.

Whether I'm reading a magazine, drinking a glass of wine, napping, folding laundry, talking on the phone, entertaining friends, checking my email, writing a blog (although, unfortunately, I am not right now on my porch!), sorting through mail or eating breakfast, lunch or dinner, it's my favorite place to be.

And as I walked through the Woodsdale neighborhood recently, I realized just how many porches there are on those houses. Most were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s when porches were important, architecturally as well as socially. Our front porch has a swing, a couch, a coffee table, a table and chairs for dining, and some extra chairs for visitors, too. Other porches in the neighborhood are decorated as if the porch was a room of the house, with rugs, decorative items, artwork and lamps.

Some porches look a bit barren, with just some sparse outdoor furniture; you can tell from the sidewalk which porches are used often. You can almost figure out which houses have a backyard deck where the residents hibernate.

A porch was the selling point for the room I rented at Chautauqua Institution in western New York earlier this summer. It's where all the visitors that week spent time ... reading, conversing, having a glass of wine, eating their meals. (And the room was SO small for three people, had we not had access to the porch, we may not have been so cordial to each other.)

In fact, so many houses there have porches, a T-shirt at the Chautauqua bookstore one year noted, "Life's a Porch," with a picture of a comfortable rocker.

Our house on Wheeling Island, where we lived years ago, had THREE porches ... one in the front, and two overlooking the river. Summer was spent porch-sitting at that house, for sure. Although, the attraction of the river kept us on the back porches mostly.

But during the summer now we spend more time on our front porch than anywhere else in the house. Along with it being a comfortable place to be, you get to check out what's going on in the neighborhood. I can watch the neighborhood kids ride their bikes. I can wave to passersby or even have a conversation if someone wants to stop and chat. Friends may drive by, and if we're on the porch, they'll stop and visit. Otherwise, they might have just kept on going.

Online, there is a Front Porch Forum ... "Use Front Porch Forum to knit your neighborhood together." That's sort of silly ... just sit on the porch and talk, for goodness sake!

So, hey, if you're ever just walking by or driving by, chances are I'll be on my porch. Please say hello!


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