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

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