Front Porches

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Front Porches "Come on out here and sit a spell with me," my grandfather said to me, rising from the dinner table where we had gobbled down my grandmother's fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cream gravy and green beans her standard Sunday spread. Taking a wedge of her pecan pie with us, Papa and I headed for the front porch. As I snuggled up to him on the swing, carefully balancing my pie, I could smell the sunshine in his faded blue-denim overalls that he had changed into after church. They were so worn they were as light and soft as his chambray work shirt. Side by side, we sat on the porch that spanned the front of our farmhouse, scraped up every last crumb of Grandma's pie, leaned back, sighed contentedly and "sat a spell." To me, it was a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. To this day, front porches hold a special place in my heart. My grandfather's porch was wide and deep enough to handle tricycle races with my cousins, games of jacks, picnics and the dreams of a little girl gazing up into the summer sky. The porch also had many practical uses. My grandmother, mom, sister and I would gather there in its cool protection with old washtubs filled with peas, string beans or strawberries just gathered from the garden. As we shelled or snapped or husked, we talked about everything from 4-H projects to boys to what was for supper. On really hot summer nights, my grandfather would drag a cot out onto the front porch, hoping to catch a nighttime breeze and a little sleep. He would fall asleep to a chorus of locusts and crickets in the glow of a million stars. The porch served as a haven for all, human and animal alike. After a few rounds of pushing a lawn mower around our big yard, my brother would take a break on the porch. Coming in from a freshly cultivated field before moving on to the next one, Papa would stop a minute for a cold drink on the porch. Hot and flushed from canning vegetables, my grandmother would step out on the porch to catch a bit of breeze. Even the dogs knew the next best place to flop besides under a bush was on the cool boards of the front porch. And there was no better place than the porch to be when a summer rain swept in. You could sit out there and smell it coming from miles away; feel that first hint of a breeze, first hot and then surprisingly cool; see the first drops of rain plop into the dust that layered everything. Then the full force of the storm would hit, sometimes driving you reluctantly inside as winds lashed the rain farther and farther up under the porch's roof. I received my first kiss on that porch, painted its swing one adolescent-bored summer, helped my father repair its steps and spent many lazy Sunday afternoons on it. Front porches serve a real purpose in American life. They are an open invitation to sit a spell, to talk, to dream or to do nothing at all rare luxuries in today's fast-paced life. Front porches soothe the soul as surely as they shade the stoop. I'm still sitting on front porches. My own home has one that spans the length of our house. It's not quite as deep as my childhood front porch, but still wide enough to hold the dreams of a grown woman gazing up into a summer sky. And the invitation is still there, now for a new generation of children: "Come on out and sit a spell with me." By Vicki Marsh Kabat Reprinted by permission of Vicki Marsh Kabat 2000, from Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Paul J. Meyer, Barbara Russell Chesser and Amy Seegar.

-- SAR01 (rauch01@yahoo.com), May 02, 2001

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