I’ve been thinking about porches, particularly front porches, for a long time. I grew up in the heart of the village of Manlius and we always had a front porch on which to eat breakfast, play Stone Teacher, and watch thunderstorms. We waited on porches for cars to get stuck in the snow so we could push them out. My grandmother had a porch in Albany. You could see all the way to the end of the block through the sides of over a dozen open porches. I could sit on Nana’s porch late into the evening, listening to the grown-ups talk more openly in the semi-darkness than they would in daylight. None of the porches of my childhood were enclosed, not even screened. Somehow they functioned quite well without these “improvements.”

Now I walk around traditional neighborhoods like Eastwood and wonder about The Encloser. I figured at first this must have been some kind of a monster who was determined to wreak havoc on neighborliness. But I found out otherwise from my then 98-year-old aunt in Liverpool. She said, “Oh, some guy came around back in the ’60’s and convinced everyone that their porches would last longer if they enclosed them.” Well sure enough, people kept their porches and lost their connections to their neighbors.

From where we live now, in an upstairs flat, our porch commands a great view of the street. We are a one-house Neighborhood Watch, for we really can see much of what’s going on for two complete blocks, one in each direction. We have the great joy of being able to look down on our neighbors without their taking offense. In fact, some of them have even pleasantly waved to us, those who could see us behind our practical storm windows.

Yesterday, we finally took the plunge. We undid what The Encloser had done some thirty years before we bought the place. Our contractor was jacking up the sagging porch, so we asked him to also remove the windows, the screens and the framing – everything that wasn’t original. This morning I stepped out onto the porch and felt a flutter of excitement, like a baby bird that has just gotten the courage to leave the nest. The vista was now vast, a nice breeze filled my porch, and I could hear someone singing nearby.

The world is finally mine to view more intimately… or at least my neighbors’ houses are! If you happen to walk by, please wave. I promise to smile broadly and wave back.

Restored Porch Provides a New View of Life – Syracuse Post-Standard

photo that went with article

2 thoughts on “Porches”

  1. As a small child I lived with my family in Eastwood on Marlborough Rd, . We were two houses down from the building on the corner of James and Marlborough Rd. and next door to the Yackel’s home. Our porch, which was enclosed, had two large sections on the ends back then that swung open. With just the little lamp lights on the street at that time, (1950’s), it was scary to me. I would sit with my grandmother
    and others of my family on the porch. I can still see my uncle sitting on the the open window sill visiting with our next door neighbor. Just that little lamp light next to the Yackel’s house. As I sat next to my grandmother I could hear footsteps coming down the other end of the street and as a child it was a little scary hearing that and not knowing who or what was coming. Then out of the shadowy darkness of the street you would hear someone say, Hi, to our family. How you all doing tonight? They would reply and the neighbor would walk on down to James St. and fade off into the darkness. I’m now in my late 60’s but I will always remember those times sitting on the porch with my family. I can still see my grandfather with his baseball cap on sitting in a lawn chair on the porch, smoking a pipe and watching neighbors going by, visiting with us. Now I go out early in the morning on my own porch with my cats and watch the early morning kitchen lights come on in neighbors homes, getting ready for work and watch the beautiful sunrise or the mist on the street after all night rain and I think about my family long gone now and all of us sitting on that porch.

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