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The Art of ‘Porch Sittin’


It seems to me we live less of our home life outside than we did when I was
growing up in the Valley. Everyone had a porch, usually in the front but not always. This is where people congregated because quite frankly, no one wanted to spend much time inside.

This picture of my grandmother’s house brings back so many memories. This house had both an open front porch and an enclosed back porch. Most porches had an assortment of chairs so there was always a place to sit down. We had couch-like metal glider where conversation was as easy as the rocking back and forth. Sometimes there were straight-back chairs with the challenge always being the art of leaning back on two legs, balancing precariously leaning against the wall. And if you were really lucky you had rocking chairs or a porch swing where troubles would leave you and drift across the surrounding mountains.

A lot happened on that porch. We talked, waved hello, and talked to neighbors who oven pulled up a seat on one of the steps to ‘rest a bit’. My sisters and I would sit on that porch in a rainstorm, often running to one side where the rain cascaded off the roof washing our hair in rainwater. It was the best way to have soft hair or so we believed.

This porch is where we sat together, three generations, and shucked corn or stringed and snapped green beans. It never seemed like work. We all just pitched in when things needed to be done. The best talks happened while stringing beans. That was when you heard family stories about long lost relatives you were never likely to meet.

No houses had air conditioning in the mountains and living in the Valley, it never got really hot. It could be humid and muggy at the end of summer. With maybe one box fan in the house, everyone preferred sitting on the porch. It was much cooler there catching the breezes as they gently rolled across the mountains.

A lot of teenage romance happened on porches, too. Especially at dusk when the sun had drifted below the mountains but night had not fully set in. It was the perfect place to hold hands or sneak a first kiss. It was the place where future dreams were born and fostered, generation after generation.

My grandmother had a back porch that was eventually closed in. It was just off the kitchen with a small table often lined with homemade jams and jellies or quarts of freshly canned green beans. If we had ‘company’ this was where the kids gathered to eat.

When my sister retired and moved back from Las Vegas to Virginia, one of her criteria for a house was having a good front porch for sittin’. She found amazing rocking chairs and lined the porch with humming bird feeders and a variety of blooming plants. When I visited there was always time to go out on the porch and ‘sit a spell’.

I love porches so much, I even bought a pastel painting of a back porch. It is beautifully painted with deep blues and greens that change as the light changes. It is my favorite piece of art because it reminds me so much of that simplicity of life. Not having a house with a front porch is my only regret about the retirement home we chose.

Maybe it is just my memories, but the world seems a softer and gentler place when viewed from a porch. In this Dolly Parton song, she describes this life perfectly.

36 thoughts on “The Art of ‘Porch Sittin’”

  1. I have been jealous of American porches all my life. Few houses here have them, and I always wanted one. But the way most houses are built and configured in England, especially in London, adding one just wasn’t possible.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. Another fantastic chapter, your Grandmother’s porches front and back sound as idilic as I picture them. Though I am sure they saw an equal measure of grief and pain…that’s the way life is.
    I love the idea of rushing to wash your hair in the rain cascading down the side of the porch roof. All the beautiful memories you have. Thank you for sharing. 💜
    Growing up in London the nearest we got to this was sitting on the back step shelling peas with Mum and my sisters, and I remember my brothers and sisters giving me a bath in the old tin bath in back garden. 💜

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    1. Those are so precious memories you have, too, Willow. I have always been fascinated by life growing up in a place like London. Have you written about those days in your blog?

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    1. I think their existence must be weather related. We lived in a cool are protected by the mountains which made porches wonderful places to enjoy.

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  3. So that’s how she plays with those nails: she tunes to an open A and just barres the appropriate fret…

    We had a version of this called “stoop sitting.” We didn’t have a front porch (there was a landing, but not big enough to sit on), so we’d sit on the front steps…

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    1. That was a familiar sight in New England as people did not have porches there either.

      Dolly is pretty amazing in so many ways. I could never do anything with nails like that.

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      1. There was a lady that worked at the Hertz counter at O’Hare Airport whose nails must have been 4″ long. When she typed, it was with the nails, not her fingers.

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  4. I remember days sitting on my grandmother’s porch in the same kind of glider. Remarkably good times. You captured those feelings so well in this post, Maggie – thanks for that!

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  5. We have a shaded veranda on our house in Portugal which is the next best thing. It is faces the communal gardens and gives us the opportunities to talk to our neighbors as they walk by.

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    1. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Portugal is one of my favorite places in the world! What city are you in? It sounds lovely!

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  6. Our big porch is in the back. In the front we have two steps which we perch on and chat with people. Our neighbors have a bench out front to watch cars and people pass by. Since our street’s sidewalk connects many people with the main road, we have them walking by most of the time on the way to the store. Great variety of people.

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  7. I love this post, Maggie! The reason we chose our house 4 years ago was that it had a big front porch with a porch swing. We love sitting out there in the evenings. People will stop and talk or just wave. It really creates a sense of community. Thank You! John

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    1. John, porches are where we shucked corn, and snapped green beans and talked about our dreams for the future. They are such magical places. I am glad you have that little slice of community in your life.

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