On our block, on the eastside of 8th street, we are porch people. These homes have been here for close to a century, but at first glance this isn’t considered because they have been maintained or refurbished. Recently, real estate agents have coined the Heights as this “cool” place to live. Just last week I received a phone call from a young agent. He encouraged me to move somewhere else, somewhere that someone could care for me. He said the neighborhood was going to soon reclaim its youth and I wouldn’t want to be the “old fart” on the block.
Most of the other folks on the block are middle aged with a couple children, two cars and a dog or a cat. I am a widower and have no pets. My children and grandchildren visit on occasion but it’s more out of duty than love. On the street where I live, we communicate from our porches, across our yards, over barking dogs and the occasional passing car; our porches are our home base.
Today, I am watching as a young couple moves in across the street. According to the front yard sales flier, this home has recently been gutted and updated. It lacks, however, a porch. They move in more boxes than I have accumulated in a lifetime; as well as a large flat screen television, colorful modern furniture, and a number of canvases and other art supplies. They just have the one car and no pets or children.
The couple has now lived there a little over a week. I haven’t had an opportunity to really say hello; so this evening while I am watering my yard and he his, I use the opportunity to introduce myself.
“Welcome to the neighborhood, I’m Jim.”
“Hey, thanks,” he replies without introducing himself. Then after a pause – “Oh ya, I’m Peyton and my wife Chloe, is inside.”
“Y’all getting settled?”
“Well, boxes everywhere for now but it’ll come. How long have you lived here?”
“A little over 17 years.”
“Yes, well,” I wave my hand around showcasing my surroundings, “and most of it out here in the yard or up on the porch.“
“You have a great yard. I’d like to build a porch.”
“You don’t say?”
“Yes, for my wife; for us really. I want it to be a place where we can begin the day with coffee and end it with a glass of wine.”
Smiling I say, “You’ll do well here then.”
Peyton was a man was of his word; he worked on the porch every weekend and after work during the week. It took him eight months. Now, I look upon his porch with envy.
The only porch on the block that rivals it belongs to the Buchanan’s and they spent a pretty penny to have someone else design and build it. They are members of the Civic Club, of course. Every piece of furniture is from Restoration Hardware or Ethan somebody. They did all this a little too quickly to care. Their place isn’t inviting, isn’t user-friendly. I don’t count that; I don’t count them. Peyton built his porch out of love; built it because of a promise.
This porch that sits directly opposite mine is exquisite. Peyton’s deliberation shows within the details. Chalky white stones separate the well-manicured lawn from the flowerbed that comfortably dresses the craftsmanship. Purple and yellow and pink flowers sit before the leafy green hedges that stand directly in front of the porch. The porch wraps around the southwest corner of the home. It is open enough to accommodate a breeze but closed enough for privacy. The chalky white stones that make up its base were carefully selected and pieced together, offering a strong foundation. Between each stack of stones and running from the ground to the floor of the porch, is fencing – white, wooden, diagonally slatted. Rising up from the stone base are rough wood beams that have a dark natural stain. They connect the stone to an arched rooftop. The west side of the porch has a pergola roof instead. Beneath the open pergola is a porch swing for two. The other side of the porch has three rocking chairs. Two of these rocking chairs are adult sized and a smaller one for a child.
The day after he finished staining the wood beams he invites some of us over to celebrate. His wife, Chloe, seems slightly distracted, especially for someone who has wanted a porch so badly. Her belly shows evidence of what her body, her love, has been building for the past nine months. As others start to arrive she almost slides into a façade, her stubbornness to conquer the distracted or uncomfortable person she was earlier in the evening.
Out on the porch, I am enjoying a pinot from Oregon and ignoring a rant by Steve Buchanan, when I hear the cry.