By Mary Beth Breckenridge Akron Beacon Journal
As I write this, I’m sitting at my desk, 20 feet from the nearest window and bathed in the office-green glow of fluorescent lights.
My mind isn’t here, though. It’s on a front porch someplace.
This is the time of year when I long for the slow pace of a porch. I want to lounge in an Adirondack chair, book in hand, fingers slick with the chilly sweat from a glass of lemonade.
Not that I ever get to live that way, but I can dream.
A big front porch has played a primary role in my dream-house fantasies for almost as long as I can remember. Sometimes I drive or ride my bike past houses with porches I admire, just to scope them out. I’ll pore over porch pictures in shelter magazines. Somewhere on my computer, I have photos I snapped of an elegant yet understated porch in the beach community where I spend my summer vacations, a porch I plan to copy for my own house just as soon as my lottery numbers hit.
I suspect this porch lust is rooted in my memories of a few houses that were important to me in my childhood, particularly the house where my aunt and uncle lived at the time.
I remember little of their 19th-century house, other than its two staircases, the alley out back and the hulking coal furnace that I thought was the gateway to hell.
And that porch.
I don’t recall that it had any special amenities, just a porch swing and a good view of the street. But what more did it need? My siblings, cousins and I considered it great entertainment to sway on the swing and watch a quirky assortment of townspeople pass by.
My childhood home had just a small stoop, so to me that porch was the epitome of luxury. In a way, it still is.
The house where I live now has what I guess qualifies as a front porch, but it almost doesn’t deserve the name. It’s a narrow strip of concrete with a roof and a few skimpy posts, a design afterthought tacked onto the house mainly for decoration.
My husband and I have tried to turn it into a respectable porch, adding rockers, potted plants and the all-important American flag. Still, something isn’t right.
We’ve tried sitting out there in the evening, but usually we retreat inside after only a half-hour or so. Our porch just doesn’t provide the cozy feel we crave. It’s too skinny, too far from the street, too exposed. We feel like we’re on display.
Front porches, I think, should be as well thought out as the rest of the rooms in a house. They should invite bare feet and relaxed conversations. They ought to have a railing or a wall substantial enough for sitting on, and they should be sheltered enough to afford some privacy but exposed enough to be friendly.
And I insist they have painted wood floors, just because I like the way a wood porch floor sounds when someone walks on it. After all, in my porch dreams, I never have to paint it.
Some community planners will also argue that porches encourage neighborliness. They draw us outside and give us a place to spend time where our neighbors can see us. They allow us to hail folks if we want to and maybe invite them into our space, all on our own terms.
I like to think that’s true. I’d love the opportunity to invite my neighbors over for a little porch sitting, instead of just waving to them as I drive by in my car.
Maybe I’m just fantasizing. Maybe I wouldn’t sit on a big porch any more often than I sit on my seldom-used deck out back.
Maybe it wouldn’t make my life any better at all.
But I’d sure like the opportunity to find out.