Continuing a legacy of front porch sitting

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Historically, front porches were used by families for relaxation after laboring in hot conditions. After dinner, a family could enjoy the cooler air and pleasant views on their front porch. Neighbors might stop by to catch up on the latest news.

Flowerbeds accented the area surrounding the front porch. The backyard was for the outhouse and garden. The front yard was more inviting. Parents could relax but still see their children playing together.

This tradition began to fade with two inventions: television and air conditioning.

When we built our home, I knew it had to have a front porch. I didn’t want it as an added feature on the front, only to add curb appeal. I wanted to breathe life into an American tradition of front porch sitting that was left in the past. I yearned for a space to enjoy relics like my grandparents’ metal clam chairs. For color and more nostalgia, I set my heart on planting living heirlooms, flowers passed down from one generation to the next.

Summer evenings

On any given summer evening of my childhood, I could tell you exactly where to find my grandma and grandpa. As for grandpa, he sat on his front porch in his wooden glider rocker. His back and forth motions created creaking sounds in contrast to the high-pitch sound of cicadas hiding in the nearby tree.

Next to him, my grandma flitted about like the hummingbirds that were attracted to her bleeding heart flowers. She brought out coffee for him and sweet iced tea for herself. Together, they enjoyed the cool breeze and the shade created by two pine trees that flanked the front yard.

Grandma only sat for short intervals. She jumped up to shoo away a squirrel or to sweep pine needles off the porch floor. She gathered the needles in her dustpan and walked out to the blueberry bushes. The blueberry bushes thrived under her care producing buckets of sweet berries year after year; blueberry pies were grandpa’s favorite.

To the right of their porch, hostas lined the house down to the woodpile. The hostas’ large leaves blocked the sun and slowed the growth of weeds. Grandpa kept a keen eye for weeds. He hated when he saw dandelions sprout up in his yard. Sitting on his front porch gave him a chance to survey his yard, his pride and joy.

Watching grandkids

He enjoyed when his grandchildren came over. He loved to see them playing hide and seek near the clematis trellis. Grandma had wanted the clematis planted close enough to the garage to get protection from the wind but still have long hours of sunshine. Vivid purple blossoms in early summer proved it was the perfect spot.

As he sat upon the front porch like a sentinel, he guarded the flower beds from trampling feet. Daylilies were to the left along with grandma’s prized blue hydrangea blooms. She insisted they were blue because she planted pennies underneath them. Just like finding the perfect spot for the clematis vine, grandma succeeded in growing clusters of blue blooms, soft cream in their center.

While grandma and grandpa enjoyed their front porch, friends and family often stopped by to visit. After a hard day of work in humid conditions, they enjoyed looking for new sprouts and blooms while discussing neighborhood gossip.

My grandparents proved that endearing love grows in small places. Their house was 900 square feet, and the porch I loved was no more than six feet by twelve feet.

Lovely legacy

When we built our house, we doubled the square footage. Every day, I try to exponentially grow the love and tenderness they shared with me. When I started my flower beds next to my front porch, I knew exactly what I wanted: daylilies, hostas, black-eyed Susans, coneflowers and daisies. They were starts dug up by my mom from my grandma’s flower beds.

I know hydrangeas turn blue with acidic soil, but I couldn’t help but toss in a few pennies just like grandma when I planted mine. One spot on my front porch gets enough sun for a hanging basket. As I sip my sweet tea slowly, I catch a glimpse of a hummingbird filling up with sweet nectar.

I can hear my kids taunting each other as they race to see who can reach the blueberry bushes first. Tonight, I’m just winding down and enjoying the view from my front porch. It’s my rendition of the American dream, a legacy rooted by my grandparents.

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Julie Geiss lives with her husband and four children in Unity Township, Ohio. Faith and family are first in her life, but she also loves hiking, biking and camping. You can contact Julie at juliegeiss1414@gmail.com.

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