Wednesday, September 7, 2016
THE SUMMER PORCH
Summer Porch, Internet Domain
I grew up in the Midwestern days before central air conditioning, garbage disposals, attached garages and a lot of other amenities we now take for granted. We all have the tendency to look back on the good old days, but realistically the only thing that was really good about most of those days is that we were younger back then. The neighborhood I terrorized, or rather roamed around, had shared alleys in the back which provided access to the detached garages and breathing distance from everyone’s garbage cans.
My grandparents lived next door in a house that had a wraparound sheltered porch. We cousins enjoyed slipping out one of the upstairs windows onto the flat porch roof and harassing the minions below. That porch was a gathering place for all the neighbors, aunts and uncles and cousins. Sunday afternoon family dinners that exceeded the home’s interior occupancy rate inevitably found the outside porch filled to capacity as well. It provided a swell place to gather and discuss politics and weather along with everyone’s personal lives. There was always a lot of love and laughter swirling around that summer porch and there were always new additions to the family as we cousins got cheaper by the dozen.
Neighbors walking the tree-lined sidewalks would generally find someone sitting on the porch to stop by and chat with on a summer’s day. Or relatives would drive up the alley and park in the back driveway to visit. The summer porch was different than today’s air conditioned shopping mall where you stroll around with total strangers on a hot August day. And folks now-a-days leave their air conditioned office in their air conditioned vehicles and drive home into their air conditioned houses where many will stay until they repeat the isolated air conditioned cycle all over again the next day. Summer porches still exist, but mainly on vacation homes surrounded by a body of water.
The summer porch was a wonderful place to sit and enjoy a late afternoon rain shower, heralded by the sharp call of a distressed Blue Jay high atop the towering Elm trees. The air was crisp and clean and the sound of the rain drops on the flat roof was melodious. An occasional gust of wind would even provide a hint of the interior air technology to come. Once the rain clouds passed, cicadas would begin their evening serenade among the towering elm shade trees. Their soothing songs sounded like a team challenge match between one group that would have the stage only to be silenced by another group joining in from across the street. Then the sun would lower in the west and cooler air would begin to penetrate the summer night. On some of the hottest summer days when even the nights didn’t cool off very much, we would stay outside on the porch and continue the casual conversations into the night. Sometimes my grandfather would place the AM radio by an open window and we would listen to those grand old audio shows like The Shadow, Amos and Andy, Gunsmoke with Chester and Marshal Dillon and the Jack Benny Show. They actually left some room for a young boy to engage his imagination.
I drove by our old homestead a few years ago. The house I grew up in had burned to the ground and was replaced by university student housing. My grandparents’ home was still standing, but like the old neighborhood it wasn’t aging well. What really caught my attention was the summer porch that I had envisioned many times in my mind since I left to follow my bliss. It was actually rather Spartan and much, much smaller than my youthful memories. So I’ve suppressed that memory in favor of those from my youth and continue to retain those Camelot images of that summer porch so full of life and all those people that I still cherish even more than I realized.