The lost art of front-porch sitting

Early September, I moved from my old-fashioned house with a wrap-around porch to an upscale suburb.

Jogging past the crepe myrtles gracing my neighbor’s drive, I notice the eloquent stone houses in my new neighborhood lack a certain charm — a charm even my grandmother’s ordinary two-story oozed. I glance along the tree-lined street toward the stoic houses and realize the porches are missing — amputated from their prominent place — and how much I miss the front porch on my old house.

A stoop barely wide enough for one chair graces the front entrances of most of the houses here. Garages protrude where the once revered front porch would have stood, proudly providing a respite from the sun for the cantankerous old man who just finished mowing the lawn or for the ponytailed chick with the sweaty toddler on her hip.

Two folding chairs sit empty inside the open garage I’m passing. I imagine the dignified owners of such a mansion nestled into the camping chairs by the trash cans, discussing their recent trip to Ireland and absorbing the shade not available on their missing front porch.

I jog on remembering grandma perched on her banister, her hands swiping sweaty curls that were stuck to my sister’s head like the Popsicle drops running off my chin and splashing orange onto the concrete step. The news lady would honk by and grandma would say, “Don’t wave, we’ll be in the next edition of the paper!”

A breeze rustled the pages of the newspaper draped over Grandpa’s plaid polyester pants. Above the clinking wind chimes, Bobby’s mom could be heard yelling for him as he clacked past over the sidewalk. Ma Happer’s chickens were loose and clucking through our yard again. Across the street, old man Baker revved the engine on his car that needed repaired every week.

The block was our world, the porch our connection to it — in real time. No cables or modems needed.

My run through memories today ends at my house where my own tiny porch wishes for a swing and a dollop of ice cream to spatter over the bare concrete. If it were a work day, I could excuse the emptiness, but the somber Sunday scene beckons reflection. I plop onto the step, my hands to my head knowing that more than just architecture has changed when I hear the whimsy of a distant melody. I know that sound. The ice cream truck! The one that I’d run to so hard I’d fall and skin my knee, but never let go of the dime clenched in my hand.

The music is closer now and I watch for a glimpse of that magical cold machine, but it never makes it to my street. Maybe it’s still stuck on that street in my childhood.

And just maybe I am too.

Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column will appear each Tuesday in Ohio Valley Publishing.

Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column will appear each Tuesday in Ohio Valley Publishing.