My Best Place

June 11, 2021

The best place I know, is fortunately, right in front of my house. I am writing this blog from that place, or should I say, from this place, considering it is currently where I am. My best place is my front porch. I know that seems incredibly convenient, and it is, because who doesn’t want their best place to be easily accessible. Imagine if my favorite place was a Tibetan village, I would never get to enjoy it. But lucky for me, my best place is the 100 square feet of cement attached to the front of my house. It’s not particularly fancy, nor spacious, but it does its job with a yeoman’s efficiency and it does it effectively. My front porch never fails to provide me with a place to rest my ass and endless entertainment.

During the warmer months, my wife and I stash the TV away and turn our attention towards life on the street. Amber and I spend more time on the porch in summer than anywhere else, by far. Whether it’s sipping our morning coffee or watching the ice melt rapidly from our evening gin and tonics, the porch is where we while away our summer days.

Over the years, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into making the backyard into a space we can enjoy, but it’s rarely where we hang out. Outside of some squirrel battles and Leon chasing bunnies, there is no life out back. We crave the interaction with the street that the front porch provides.

The humble, yellow brick porch does its job relentlessly and with very little flair. The simplest space in our home is by far the best. Our front porch is utilitarian in nature and it performs its duties relentlessly.

The front porch sits at the end of a t-intersection, so we get foot traffic coming and going in three directions. Our intersection is a pretty common route to the elementary school, the park and the ice cream shop. So someone is always coming or going past the house. My father-in-law once said, sitting on this very porch, “I’ve seen more people walk by your house in the last hour than I’ve seen in a month.”

Most of the people that pass by, do so every day. This brings a feeling of comfort and belonging by being made aware of how entangled our lives have become. These interactions start as casual nods, but over the years have turned into something far more familiar. I know all the dog walkers, and their dogs by name, I know all the young stroller pushers and the daily power walkers. We have built up a rapport and exchange words both from the porch and now, happily, when we see each other out and about.

Watching life go by on the block is my favorite pastime. You can do it with a book, you can carry on a lazy conversation or you can just sit and stare. Sometimes there is drama (I’m not the only one with a Crazy Miss Lisa, right?), but not often. Sometimes there is action, though this week’s ‘action’ was a squirrel falling out of a tree, much to Leon’s surprise. Usually it’s just people going about their routines and living their lives and that alone is a pleasure to watch. It started as people watching, but now it’s so much more. It’s daily interaction with my community from the comfort of my own wicker chair. Generally it’s just a quick nod of the head or hello, but the longer we live here, the more those cool greetings have turned into conversations. The speed walkers slow down to chat, the stroller moms talk to our girls about babysitting, and Leon now has his own posse that takes timeouts from their walks to frolic in the lawn.

We now eat most of our meals on the front porch, even though there isn’t nearly enough room. The dog sits on the top stair and watches passersby, occasionally informing other dogs that this porch is HIS and his alone- so back off. My favorite part of every summer day is wrapping up my responsibilities and heading out with a drink and a book. Sidewalk traffic provides just the proper amount of distraction I need for a good read. Not too much to keep me from making progress, but enough to provide breaks between chapters.
Amber and I are squeezing every bit of use out of our sidewalk overlook in the coming couple of weeks because sadly, they will be our last. When we started searching for a new house a front porch was an absolute deal breaker. We wouldn’t even consider looking at anything else. Then, for whatever ridiculous reason, a global pandemic made real estate sales in our neighborhood go nuts and houses would sell the same day they were listed. We were still adamant about requiring a front porch, but started to accept that we weren’t going to get everything we wanted.

Then, in March, a neighbor came to us with an inside scoop on a house a couple of blocks away. The owner had passed away and the house was going to an estate agency to manage the sale. We dropped a note in the door and crossed our fingers. A couple of months later, we heard back from the estate agent and had the opportunity to walk through the house before it listed. It was everything we could have wanted, except one key aspect.

A 1937 stone Tudor on a brick street, parquet floors, cathedral ceiling, a sun porch, a nice sized backyard, close to Amber’s work, near all of our friends, not far from school, close to the shops, a basement that can be refinished, MORE THAN ONE BATHROOM! But… it doesn’t have a front porch.

It was a heart wrenching decision, but one we felt that we had to make. The real estate market is just too crazy right now to pass up the opportunity and our family of six has reached its breaking point with one bathroom. Avoiding realtors and their fees, skipping potential bidding wars, etc… it was a choice we felt we had to make, but I am growing more and more aware every day of how much I am going to miss this porch.

It just won’t be the same. While we intend to build a small stone patio in front of the house and set out a table and chairs, I am sure it won’t be like this. A front porch is immensely more than a raised concrete pad. It is a vantage point for the world’s best show. It’s a tether to street life and my connection to the people I share a place with. It is the end-all, be-all civics lesson that everyone could use and it’s the most welcoming place you could want.

First day of school pictures, bullshitting over beers with Kevin, painful parenting talks, rereading a favorite book, late night cocktails with Amber, small talk with the neighbors, an impromptu pizza dinner with the whole family. My front porch has been the setting for so many of my absolute favorite memories, the ones you can already tell will have a gauzy golden glow as they age.
There is something special about the porch that makes it the ideal place for so many of those things to happen. There is nowhere else in the house that contains half as many memories. The front porch is the threshold between my community and me, and every time I step out here, I’m announcing that I am a part of my place. That I don’t want to be sequestered inside, hiding from this life, but that instead, I am choosing to participate. For this reason, the front porch lends itself to being the place where the best parts of my life take place.

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