Porch-sitting has become a lost art, an obsolete social platform that has taken a back seat to smart phones, laptops, and computers. Young folks do not even call their friends anymore – they text them! Skype, Zoom, and WebEx have taken the place of real-life, face-to-face meetings and get-togethers. And whenever people do get together, they interact on a superficial level. Don’t believe me? The next time you are in a restaurant and you see a group of people together, take a moment and observe them; most are on their phones and totally disengaged from present company. Maybe this is the silver lining behind this COVID19 cloud that has darkened our nation, our very planet even? Maybe this is a crisis that will tear our attention away from these electronic devices and dial our focus in on our family, friends, and loved ones?
My parents came from a time that was pre-smart phone and pre-computer. I remember those times myself and I am only 58. Back in those days, if you wanted to find out how your neighbor was doing you had two options – call them up on a dial-up land-line phone or travel to their home to visit with them. Often these visits would take place on a big open porch, where the adults could sit in the shade while watching the kids play in the yard. “Dropping in” on someone was not an intrusion – it was a pleasant surprise and visits could last for hours.
I remember my grandparents’ home so fondly and the Sunday get-together we’d have there when I was a child. After a big meal (which always included fried chicken) everyone would migrate to the front porch. The porch itself was deep and high with metal awnings that shaded it from the noon-day sun. It wrapped around the front of the house and down the side towards the kitchen. There was a wide assortment of chairs, rockers, and glider swings to choose from. Once people settled in, they often sat in silent appreciation of the food and admiration of a peaceful afternoon. It was a comfortable silence. Soon, however, someone would ask about a neighbor, or comment on the weather, or mention how well their tomatoes were doing. The conversation would ebb and flow among the adults on the porch while the children climbed high into the tops of the magnolias on the front lawn. There was a sense of… contentment.
Maybe that’s what’s wrong with society today? Maybe we have lost our sense of contentment? Maybe, when this virus has passed, we need to gather with loved ones on our porches and just… be there with one another.
“Happy is said to be the family which can eat onions together. They are, for the time being, separate from the world, and have a harmony of aspiration. ” ~Charles Dudley Warner