Summer Nights

Memories Of A Small Town Front Porch

Feb 15, 2011 by

Back in my teen years we lived in a small house near a western suburb of Rochester, NY. I didn’t realize how small the house was until I’d grown up and moved away. No, seriously. It wasn’t just the distorted memory of youth. By today’s standards, our house really was tiny. There was a tiny front hall, a tiny (really tiny) living room, a tiny dining room, a tiny kitchen, and three tiny bedrooms upstairs. And a huge bathroom. Interesting, that bathroom.  [pic is my sister’s house – I  don’t have one of my old home]

I have fond memories of the good sized front porch. It was enclosed by screens all the way around. In the late days of summer, late-1960s, I would sleep on the porch. I remember feeling empowered by being allowed to sleep outdoors – with just an unlocked screened door between me and the street (between me and escape? What I had to escape from… is a story for another day). Memory serves up the clicking of crickets and the rustle of dry leaves as birds scampered unseen from branch to branch high in the tree that stood in our front yard. I recall the sleepy sound of a voice slicing through the darkness as someone shouted  to a friend two streets away, the noise like a sharp clap in the back of a dark theater.

Those were the days, we tell ourselves now. Those summers of our youth. We slept late, as many kids do today, but our rising was out of a sleepy reprieve; we were reluctant to open our eyes, reluctant to let sunlight blur whatever dreams still lingered behind closed eyes. We didn’t rush off to grab iPads, or iPhones or to check our Facebook status. Connecting with our friends was reserved to a phone call, on a real phone, attached to a wall later in the day, certainly not immediately after rising. We didn’t even turn the TV on that early in the morning!

The good old days – that’s what they were. Summers spent with friends, long walks barefoot on hot cement sidewalks, laughing, joking, slurping popsicles, pushing our younger brothers and sisters away, even as we were expected to “babysit” them for parents who were off at work. And, at the end of the day, we girls gathered on front porches, waiting for the boys to drive by. It was a ritual to be there, as if by mistake, so the boys, who showed up because they happened to be driving through the neighborhood, could stop and chat or offer us rides to get ice cream. Many was the night I yelled over my shoulder that I was going to get ice cream, and my mother would yell back, “Don’t be late!” As if I had anything to be late for.

Sometimes, we’d hang out at the ice cream store for an hour or more. We’d talk about what we were going to do tomorrow, or the next day. We’d talk about school starting in a few weeks. We’d complain about our parents, our sisters and brothers, our neighbors. No one understood us. We were proud of that. No one understood the new rock and roll we listened to. We loved that. No one understood how we got to be so self-centered; which we were not. We were focused on ourselves, yes, but no more than any other teen group throughout the ages. We were exploring our boundaries – knowing we could return to the safety of our front porches.

In time, conversation would dry up and it would be back to the front porch. If my house was dark when we returned, it meant everyone had gone to bed. The quiet shadows of sleep folded over the house by 10:30, a time no self-respecting teen observed as bedtime!

”“Are you sleeping outside? my friends would whisper, as I climbed out of the VW.

I remember glancing up at the window that was my parents’ bedroom. It was always open. I half expected my mother to come to the window and tell us to be quiet. No doubt she could hear every word.

“Probably,” I would answer. There was an unspoken request – Can we come in? And an unspoken reply, No! I was a “good girl”…which meant I rarely did anything my parents could punish me for.

Sleeping outdoors was never a plan. I slept on the porch because I liked it, and because my mother was too tired to make me come indoors. I remember those stifling summer nights, sweat and grime gathered between my toes (sometimes I wore flip-flops, mostly I went barefoot), and the welcoming cool of the sofa on that front porch with its rumpled cotton sheet and small pillow.

“See you tomorrow,” my friends would say, and the metal beetle would putt-putt-putt down the street, fading into a curve.

I only slept outdoors when it was unbearably hot. I never worried about bugs, or creatures, or the sun coming up at 6 a.m., waking me with a warm touch on my cheek, a tickle of light on my eyelashes. Upstairs, in my room, my younger sister slept the sleep of the innocent – probably on my side of the bed. I celebrated the porch because it was the only place I had to myself for those few hours at the end of the day. On the porch, I dreamt of the days to come when I would go off to college and be independent and free and self-sufficient.

Little did I know independent and free and self-sufficient would not happen until I was well into my 40s.

Are the memories of those nights on the front porch tainted by time? Do I only remember the good, preferring to forget the bad? It was a simpler time, without the worry of crime (the neighborhood has since fallen on bad times, sad to say) or of kids running off, although some did. I have niggling memories of sleeping out there because of strife in the house. I have confused memories of sleeping there because I didn’t feel I belonged in the house. Was I just being a teenager? Was it just teenaged angst or something else?

The American front porch is making a comeback, I think. I wonder if today’s teens will be allowed to sleep out there – unattended by adults, furiously texting friends… to sneak over? My kids don’t believe that I never had company on that front porch but… I didn’t. How boring is that?

More From Yvonne

About the Author

Yvonne DiVita Has Written 12 Articles For Us!

Yvonne DiVita is the author of Dick*less Marketing: Smart Marketing to Women Online, the premier book on marketing to women online. As President of Windsor Media Enterprises, LLC specializing in Publishing 3.0 using print-on-demand, as well as business blog building and social media strategy, Yvonne is an active blogger starting with her women’s blog Lip-Sticking. Her latest book, A Little Book of Big Thoughts, is offered on her blog as an e-book and a print book. In the summer of 2009, she co-founded BlogPaws, an online pet community to support pet bloggers and pet lovers. BlogPaws has successfully held two social media conferences in 2010 and is diligently working on conference #3 for August of 2011.
Getting The Latest Tweet...
Did you know Yvonne has a blog? Go see what you're missing...
Share With Your Girlfriends and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • email
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Bookmarks
  • FriendFeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Posterous
  • Tumblr

1 Comment

  1. Loved this post, Yvonne….took me right back to those looooonng summer nights!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *