Transitioning to the front porch of life
My hometown of Ames, N.Y., is much like Lancaster. In fact, many Amish have migrated to upstate New York in order to take advantage of the open fields and uncluttered roadways.
Simple wooden homes line the singular main street of what was referred to by E.B. White as the “loveliest town of all.” He was so impressed by his visits there in the early 1940s that he titled the 13th chapter of his book “Stuart Little” “Ames Crossing.” The original dust jacket even shows a tiny silhouette of the village.
Not much had changed when my parents moved there in 1951. Then, the smallest incorporated village in the state, Ames boasted a population of just more than 200.
Most of the homes had two porches.
The back porch was for family and friends. It was where the clothesline began, where the snap peas were snapped, and where we played with our dolls in the summertime. There was perpetual activity, and the steps were worn down by constant traffic. Our back porch stairs led into the laundry room, which was just around the corner from the kitchen.
The front porch was more formal, and often had a metal glider and a few pieces of wicker furniture with overstuffed floral chintz pillows. I called it the “visiting and watching porch.”
My house didn’t have the front version but instead had a large side wrap-around porch on which I did not sit too much in my youth. Life was happening, and I didn’t want to miss anything. There were bikes to ride, Popsicles to lick, and forts to build.
The adults were on the “visiting and watching porch,” and they laughed and waved to us as we pedaled past on the way to the playground. Sometimes I wondered how my neighbors could just sit there, content to slowly swing back and forth in the summer evening. It seemed boring and unappealing to me at the time.
Today, my home in Lancaster has a back deck and a large front porch. Out back is where we grill, sit with friends and where I husk the corn. The front porch has two green rocking chairs standing sentry next to the front door.
As I close in on my sixth decade of life, I am starting to appreciate the art of observation. I no longer zoom around on a bicycle, and I have put my dolls away for my granddaughter. I don’t skip as much as I used to, and I can’t remember the last time I jumped rope.
Instead, I am drawn to the beckoning rocking chairs on warm summer evenings to watch the setting sun while listening to nature’s symphony. In the morning they are a good place to enjoy a cup of coffee, as the slow rocking motion eases me into the rhythm of the day.
Certainly I am not ready to give up back porch activities, and there are quite a few more adventures I want to experience. However, I feel a slight transition to the “front porch” of my life. I am developing an appreciation for a slower pace and a chance to observe and reflect upon the joys of life. I am beginning to understand the beauty of the view of my sage childhood neighbors.
But for right now, I have two tiny plastic Adirondack chairs on the back deck for our grandchildren. That is where the fun takes place, which I will someday reflect upon when I have fully moved to the “front porch” of my life.