One of my favorite memories as a kid is sitting with my grandpa on the porch of his farmhouse. A train track was clearly visible from about a quarter-mile away. As I sat with him, he’d tell me stories, we’d watch the occasional truck or tractor go by, and when the freight trains rumbled past, we’d bet each other what color the caboose would be. It was almost always red.

I have a porch on my house, and I love it. It’s not as fancy as my grandpa’s wraparound porch — mine’s a simple slab of concrete with a few square columns and an overhang roof — but it offers me a place to sit outdoors and enjoy the fresh air. I like the time I get to spend out there.

Last week, a couple neighbors walked over, and we sat on the porch talking sports and other topics. The next evening, a couple of friends stopped over to bring my wife some homemade jam. We sat on the porch talking. My friend told me his dad said decks were the reason many neighbors no longer know each other. At one time, people sat on their front porches where they saw and chatted with neighbors. When decks became popular, people sat behind their houses in private.

Builders and architects have told me that porches and decks are great ways to extend living space from indoors to outdoors. The difference is that decks are typically isolated, while front porches allow people to see and interact with neighbors.

I typically sit on my porch most evenings when the weather’s nice. I enjoy saying hello to the neighbors who walk past and waving to the ones who drive past. Because I usually work at home, there are days when I sit on the porch with my computer to work. It’s a great perk. By mid-morning, the porch is shaded so I can see my monitor clearly. Truth be told, being outside is so relaxing that I sometimes nod off for a 20-minute nap after my last conference call of the day.

This summer, I sat on my porch with my kids and wife on several occasions to watch thunder and lightning storms roll through. We were twice treated to rainbows.

I’ve read that there’s a front porch revival of sorts in many towns. More people are realizing porches encourage spontaneous interaction with neighbors and are, in a sense, the eyes and ears of a community. It seems that way where I live. When I take walks through our neighborhood, I typically see people sitting on their porches. It helps lend a sense of personality and warmth, which is what I want in the community I call home.

Brett Martin is a community columnist who’s been a Shakopee resident for over 15 years.

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