The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Front Porch Memories

By Patti Perry-Armes © 2015

Online: April, 2015

(Editor's Note: Patti Perry-Armes lives in the country, just outside Knoxville, Tennessee. She enjoys writing short stories, particularly about rural life and living in the Appalachian region. A number of her stories have been published in anthologies, and both print and internet magazines.)

The front porch was such a part of my social and cultural upbringing. I know that was the case in many homes, particularly in the South. Some of my fondest memories took place on that porch. There wasn't anything particularly special about it. Wooden flooring painted glossy gray, it ran across the length of the house, with steps at both ends. But it was our world, and the world visited us there. It came in the form of relatives, neighbors, friends, church members, the milkman, the Watkins salesman, and various others with items to sell.

I remember the days when the road we lived on was covered only in gravel. The gritty white dust would settle on everything each time a car would pass and kick it up. It was a time when there were no house numbers, just rural routes, and everyone knew everyone.

My job in the summer was to keep that white road dust off Mama's plants that she put on the porch from May to September. Afternoons were spent making mud pies, helping string or break beans, shucking corn, or washing jars for canning. Fridays were the day the ice cream man would come, and I would eagerly wait listening for his music, signaling my banana Popsicle was on its way. Mama would often spend time on the porch, when chores were done, telling me stories of her childhood, identifying the calls of birds, or just humming songs while she crocheted.

As years passed, the road was asphalted. My little sister, five years younger than me, began spending time on the porch. We spent what seemed, one entire spring watching the asphalting process from our perch on the porch. She would be waiting for me to return on the school bus each afternoon, and we would sit on the steps and watch the big trucks and equipment, until supper was called. It was that same spring that Daddy thought it time we have a porch swing. This added a whole new dimension to our creativity. We would while away hours swinging, reading, coloring, and cutting out paper dolls.

The summer I turned thirteen, Daddy decided he would screen in our porch. After much protest from the rest of the family, he finally settled for enclosing one end as a sleeping area. This became our "getaway" by day. We recruited our only neighbors (cousins) to act in plays with us, have poetry readings, giggle over boys, or sometimes we just went there to be alone and read. I'm sure Daddy appreciated the frilly curtains and bedspread that we adorned his sleeping area with to make it cozier, but he never said anything.

In the fall, we would decorate the porch with pumpkins, scarecrows, and bales of hay. We would sit out in the swing until the crisp night air would numb our noses, watching our breath form smoke clouds. Daddy would sometimes sit out in the nippy air with us, lighting his pipe, the warm sweet smell, filling the night air. Occasionally we would be treated to the sounds of a screech owl in one of the big maples in the front yard.

During the winter, we continued to enjoy our porch through the windows. We would put out sunflowers for the birds and corn for the squirrels, and enjoy their antics throughout the season.

The first warm afternoons of spring, found us bundled up, sitting in the sun, listening for the songs of the spring peepers in our pond and watching birds build nests in the budding dogwood. Soon it would be time to bring Mama's houseplants out for the season.

The porch was the site of many happy events; cookouts, homemade ice cream socials, the homecoming for a cousin just getting out of the Air Force, a 100th birthday party for an uncle, my parents twenty-fifth anniversary celebration. But it was sadly the gathering place for family and friends after Mama's funeral. And we had our final gathering on the porch when Daddy died that same year.

My sister and I moved away after Daddy died and started lives in other states. But I always enjoy looking at pictures of us on that porch through the years, reminiscing about those seemingly carefree times.

I recently moved back to that area and decided to drive by the old house. I dreaded what I might find. Would it be in disrepair or worse yet, torn down? To my surprise, I found it had been renovated. The porch didn't seem so big anymore, but the little girl sitting in the swing and the little boy playing on the steps didn't seem to mind as they watched the world go by.