Saturday, August 10, 2013

Porches bring back whoopee

I write a weekly column called “Neighborberry.”

I post these essays on my blog a few weeks after each one is released. The publishers get first dibs. :)

If you would like to see "Neighborberry" in your local paper/website, please tell the editor to email me at Thanks so much! 
Porches bring back whoopee (released 7/12/13)
After decades of deprivation, residents have had it. It might not be a violent uprising, but this revolution should not be underestimated.

“Who stole my porch?” people are asking as front doors swing open across the nation.

Porches have always been a good idea; it’s just that we forgot this fact for a few years. Make the lemonade, baby. Porch living is back. We just may have to improvise a bit.

Humans have a need to interact. Jobs and T-ball kept us preoccupied for while; so we didn’t realize porches had been gradually fading from our social landscape. Nowadays, many of us live behind stoops.

The porch offers us an opportunity to have a good time without much commitment. There is no need to have the house clean before socializing and no need to check the calendar ahead of time. It’s spontaneous. This outdoor parlor is always in the mood for company.

Porches allow us to be semi-social while keeping one foot inside our comfort zones. When on the porch, we invite others to have a “sit” and chat a while.  Though, as quickly as it materializes, the visit may conclude. Everyone can retreat to their homes and check email. This lifestyle is the best of all worlds.

My grandparents lived on a dead-end street and would people-watch from their front porch while sitting on the flowered vinyl cushions of their outdoor white furniture. Only 10 homes lined their gravel road, and they had to identify every driver on it.

“What car is that?” Grandpa would ask. They would both lean forward to get a better look.

“It’s Ron coming home from work,” Grandma would answer, and then they would relax back into those vinyl pillows which emitted loud whoopee cushion noises. That furniture provided an orchestra of sounds so offensive; it could send a lunchroom of second graders into giggle spasms.

My other grandmother had a wrap-around porch with no railings. It often became a stage, perfect for putting on a make-believe tap dance show. A cherry tree grew in front and draped its branches onto stage left. It didn’t discriminate against bratty pretend dancers. Low hanging fruit was offered in abundance to everyone.

My mother-in-law’s sturdy bungalow porch was a playroom for her kids and then, later, for her grandkids. It was a convenient spill-over area when the living room became over capacity and also offered ample seating to an aged, yet vocal, hopscotch audience.

Our first home as a married couple had a solid concrete porch covered with indoor/outdoor carpeting. We could dangle our legs over the edge without touching ground. We lived on a corner, so there were many neighbors to greet as they took evening strolls. It was also an opportune spot from which to leap and chase the ice cream truck.

Some porches face boring cul-de-sacs while the real action is on a main road near the backyard. In that case, a rear deck can serve as a neighborly perch. It’s close to the bar-be-cue grill, too.

Though porches have been eliminated from blueprints for quite a while, the good news is that porch sitting always finds a way. Those who want to watch the world go by will not be deterred.  Many of them sit in open garages. This arrangement works fine as does a lawn chair in the front yard. Just being visible and open to socializing is all that’s needed.

Though I don’t have a porch, I am thankful they are in fashion again. I can make do with my concrete front stoop. 

Now, all I need is a whoopee cushion.

Kris Kolk has been a writer and neighborliness promoter for more than a decade. You can also visit her at
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