By: Lisa Wright Burbach
There was nothing more refreshing than the coolness of the shade on Irma Burrell’s porch. (Confession: I don’t know if it was spelled Burrell or not, it was pronounced Burl and there is a very distinct accent where I’m from sooo, it’s a guess). I can remember running my hands through the cool, almost cold dirt on the ground beside the porch and how it was such a contrast to the sweltering hot southern summer day. It was heaven. The other thing that happened there was better than any newspaper…I mean ya’ll….folks can talk!! The neighbors gathered and in a short minute everyone was up-to-date on the latest scandals (but don’t say I said so), garden news, marriages, babies, and the mundane too. This was true of any porch or stoop when I was a child. What it was, was community and also a way of life.
As we are finding ways to deal with the Stay at Home orders during this Covid-19 crisis I have been pleasantly surprised at the things I’m starting to see that are throw backs to the past. I saw children drawing with chalk in the driveway, kids throwing the ball in the street (siblings – not breaking social distancing) and I saw young kids riding bikes in the street and on the sidewalks!! The craziest part was there wasn’t a parent in sight! They just sent the kids out to play!!! Today’s helicopter parents would never have done that a month ago, but today they relaxed and the kids are just being kids, unplugged, active kids. I’m sure the parents were watching, for those of you who are worried; the kids were fine. Really. I’m also enjoying seeing the exchange of recipes and garden tips. People are playin’, bakin’, makin’, and growin’.
The other thing I’ve loved seeing is how many people have placed a chair on their front porches or plopped their fannies right down on the steps of the front stoop. They are people watching, waving, and “hollerin'” to each other; they are building community and making some sort of connection. In the 8 years I’ve lived here I personally have never seen most of the neighbors I’ve seen lately and I’m outside a lot. I’m waving’ to every single one like some I’m Gomber Pyle! I have no intention of stopping either-“Hey Andy!!!”.
The front porch/stoop used to be a standard part of life, but after World War 2, we gradually moved to the suburbs and moved to “private” backyards and life began to change. It isn’t all bad, it’s just different, but I have miss seeing people on the porch.
When I was a kid the stoop was a part of community, first of all it was too dang hot inside! We had to sit outside in the cool of the evening or sweat inside. During the day we might take a break and sit outside with an ice cold glass of sweet tea of course. We would people watch, waving to anyone who walked by and chatted. We might shell peas, hull butter beans, or mend things while we were at it. Double duty. It was slower, calmer, and could help wash the stress of life away; if only for just a moment.
Life happens on the stoop!
I for one, welcome the return of the stoop. I welcome a time when we can relax and kindly wave at our neighbors. I welcome the community that develops from it. When I was a kid this type of connection was our lifeline. We didn’t have the internet, Netflix, little computers in our pockets. You watched the nightly news, read the paper, had back yard cookouts, and got news from the neighbors. You also couldn’t binge watch, that, I confess I’m glad to be able to do occasionally-truth be told! If you didn’t tune in Monday at 8:00 PM, or whenever your show was on, and watch that show then you didn’t see it, ever. We talked about those shows on the stoop too. We also couldn’t get away with anything! If you misbehaved 4 doors down the news traveled to your home faster than you did! Nothing escapes the stoop and chances are your mommma or grandmomma was waiting for you on that same stoop!
As you go through this Social Distancing time bring that chair out front or plop your fanny right down on the steps of your front porch or stoop and don’t forget to wave and smile and say hello and welcome the return of the stoop.
A Time to Talk by: Robert Frost
When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, “What is it?”
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
Or maybe holler from the stoop! “Howdy”, then take the time to talk; 6 feet apart of course.