Monday, September 19, 2016

Front Yard Sitting ~ my column from Sunday's paper

I bought a new garden bench for the shady area in our front yard. I bought it because it was a great deal on something I’d wanted for a long time, but I got a time machine in the bargain.

We have a big yard, but I knew at once where I wanted to put the bench. There is a place
under the mountainous water oak in our front yard that stays shady ten months out of the year. Even in August when it’s hot enough to bake a quiche in the cab of my truck, it’s not bad sitting under that oak.

All of our citrus and tropical plants that we bring inside when the weather gets cold spend the summer under that tree. I settled the new bench amongst the greenery and it looks as if it’s been there forever.

That first evening, both Jilda and I poured a tall glass of sweet tea and went out to give the new bench a try. Just then, our niece drove over the hill in front of our house and tooted her horn. We waved in stereo.

A few minutes later, I heard our great nephew Jordan running up the hill ahead of his mom. He had to come and inspect the new addition to our front yard. He nestled in between us and a smile spread across his face. “I like it,” he pronounced.

Jilda stepped inside and got him one of her world-famous homemade lemonade popsicles. He was in heaven.

As we sat there enjoying the evening, it occurred to me that people don’t sit on their front porch or in their front yards anymore. I’m not sure if it’s fear or they don’t want to breathe un-air conditioned air, but I rarely see anyone at home sitting outside.

When I was young, almost everyone in our community spent the waning moments before dusk on their porches. My great grandmother was a professional when it came to evening porch-sitting.

She had a small can that sat on her porch banister not far from her swing. In the can were cedar wood shavings along with a unique blend of other ingredients. Each evening when she went out to enjoy the remainder of the day, she’d light the shavings and a little smoke that smelled of expensive incense, wafted across her porch driving gnats and mosquitos away. I don’t think I’ve seen a gnat-smoke, as she called it, since then. She’d sit out there until dark listening to mourning doves and whip-o-wills calling to each other.

Almost all of our neighbors spent evenings on the front porch. You could hear them calling to each other across the evening stillness, asking about family and friends. It’s how we kept in touch. Kind of like Facebook without a computer. These days, the velocity of life has increased exponentially leaving little time to sit out in the front yard and visit with neighbors. I’m as guilty as the next person, but I can tell you I think our ancestors were on to something because during our time sitting on our new garden bench, it seemed the stress from the day melted.

When Jilda and I stood to go inside for supper, we both felt a little taller.


  1. This brought back memories, we used to sit on our front porch in the summer evenings, it was a grear way to chat as a family and see how our day went. I agree we need a little more of that... such a nice thought xox

  2. Summers at the shore my grandparents house front porch was close enough to the neighbors to shake hands. WHen it rained we stayed on that covered porch and played board games and often talked with the neighbors.

    The house I was asked to leave a few years ago had a covered porch and it was the venue of many parties, plus it was where I red the paper and enjoyed a smoke...I do miss that porch.

  3. Now you've got me feeling homesick for something I never experienced!

  4. And me homesick for something we have experienced. I like the way you put memories into words. Gives me a good feeling. I'm with Jordan, 'I like it'.

  5. Back in 2003, when we and millions of others, lost their power, I noticed people on their front porch. Everyone was talking, playing games and laughing. No one could watch tv, go on the Internet or anything else since the hydro was out. This is why no one is on their front porch any more because of technology. We need to get back to this and find that relaxing way to enjoy the evenings again.

  6. Memories...
    And a reminder.

  7. I love to sit on the porch. For several summers now I've made a point of sitting out there in the evening to watch the sunset.

  8. Anonymous1:13 PM

    Can we see a picture of your wonderful new bench, please?

  9. It is so relaxing to just sit on the porch in the evening. That is where I learned a lot of family stories. I actually had three rockers for my front porch for evening sitting. As I was on my way home one day I saw a car drive past me with three rockers in the trunk. They were mine!

  10. So true. We don't take the time to "sit a spell" as my grandma would say as she welcomed us on her front porch. I can remember at exactly 3pm everyday she made coffee and served my pawpaw on the front porch in her chair. And us grandkids, who were lucky enough to be there that day, were served a special treat of a soft drink in a bottle (coke, creme soda, orange, etc) while we sat on the porch with our grandparents and listened and talked with them. The best days!

  11. We have a balcony we enjoy sitting on for our morning coffee or watching the sun go down. But you're right, I don't see many people sitting on porches anymore.

  12. Many fond memories of summer nights playing in the front yard with my siblings and friends while Mom and Dad sat on the porch and soon would be joined by my Aunt and Uncle from across the street. We played till dark and they talked on long after that. Facebook has it's good points but it will never be as wonderful as a porch on a summer's night! Fun article!

  13. Wonderful article for your column, Rick. Porch sitting is to me a very rural American pastime. We hardly ever have/had people sitting on their porches here. We call them verandas and where I grew up, on a farm, the nearest neighbours were too far away to chat with from our veranda.

  14. I love sitting outside, but now with all the mosquitoes, I don't know; kind of scary.

  15. I have a small front yard and slightly bigger back yard but big enough for us and I love to sit outside and watch the traffic


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