The Front Porch: A Gem of Southern CultureApril 8th, 2012 | Posted by in The Places We've Been
Half an hour ago, Ian headed outside to mow the lawn while I started a load of laundry. The house is a disaster and the dishes are piling up, but this cloudless, 65 degree day begged me to save all of that for later, and I obliged. Now I find myself on our front porch, basking in the beauty of sitting and waving at the passing neighbors. This cultural experience, though ultimately an American tradition, manifests itself beautifully in the South. It is a gem of the region that we will remember fondly.
Growing up in the Midwest, the front porch of my parents’ house was a 4′x6′ slab of concrete where people stood while ringing the doorbell. If we wanted to enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of iced tea outside (without sugar added; this is an entirely separate issue) with a neighbor or friend, we did so from the spacious deck that overlooked a large and grassy backyard. As marvelous as my many memories of that space are, they are vastly different than they would be had those experiences occurred on a front porch.
It seems so obvious; however, because the two “porch cultures” rarely cross, it’s not something we think much about. The front porch faces the world. It’s a welcoming entry space, and to spend time there subtly implies that the gathering is open for anyone to join. A sense of friendliness and acceptance radiates — much like an outsider’s perception of the South as a whole. The back porch on the other hand is private and purposefully separate from the outside world. There is a feeling of security and belonging there that is certainly also worth celebrating. Visitors venture beyond the threshold of the home creating a perhaps more selective, but ultimately more deeply trusted circle of friends.
One of the things we look forward to most in our travels is the opportunity to learn about and from others, and it would be a shame not to begin doing so immediately. We seek to embrace the multitude of backgrounds within our own country as we prepare to visit others, and for us, the South has been plentiful in examples of the phenomenon of intra-national cultural differences. The front porch is a simple representation of this, and over the last few years, it has greatly enhanced our joyful experience in North Carolina. These thoughts and more rush over me as I slowly reel back and forth in my rocking chair, sipping my coffee, chatting with my husband about the yard, watching the neighbor kids play, and warmly accepting the perfect breeze.