Sit with me a spell out on the back porch

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The builders might as well save their money. America may reinvent itself, but it cannot resurrect a time gone by. Architects may erect nostalgic wraparound porches in darling Disneyesque communities, but there undoubtedly will be more Stairmasters than rockers on those porches, and more cellphones, TVs and iPads than pitchers of lemonade.

There is such a thing as porch culture, and I advocate strict adherence to its traditions. You simply can’t fake an old-time porch — or porch time. It has to be relaxed and unhurried. You can’t just sit on a porch for 15 minutes before rushing to the train and expect to be getting even a taste of the real thing.

In the evening, if we sit outside, we light candles. This has led to a remarkable phenomenon, which I refer to as porch therapy. In the glow of the candles, as the sun fades and the moon rises, people who sit on our porch are given to personal reverie. The mood invites intimacy, and we have heard — and told — our share of secrets there.

The essence of porch culture has been captured eloquently in many novels, often Southern, including “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” Rebecca Wells writes of four girls growing up in Louisiana in the late 1930s, and at one point she describes their porch life:

“An afternoon of iced tea and idleness. Those Ya-Yas aren’t going anywhere … They are lazy together. This is comfort. This is joy … Not one wears a watch. This porch time is not planned. Not penciled into a Day Runner. … People took porches and porch time for granted back then. Everybody had porches; they were nothing special. An outdoor room halfway between the world of the street and the world of home. … And in the evening when the sun went down, the fireflies would light up over by the camellias, and that little nimbus of light would lull the Ya-Yas even deeper into porch reveries. Reveries that would linger in their bodies even as they aged.”

Copyright © 2013 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at

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