Shannon Bardwell: Porch people

June 13, 2010 12:40:00 AM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


My first house had a porch, and every house since then has had a porch. My grandma''s house had a porch. Porch people begat porch people. 


Grandma''s house sat on a bluff on Highway 61 just north and east of Natchez. The house was painted red and white, which as a child didn''t seem strange. Now it seems a bit eccentric, which is not the least bit surprising. Momma always said that Natchez was full of "characters." I''m pretty sure Momma''s people were some of them. 


On Sundays at 4 p.m. the clan gathered at Grandma''s for coffee. Grandma had 10 children that married and multiplied, so kitchen chairs were added to porch chairs so that everyone could sit on the long front porch. While the kinfolks talked and watched kids play "hide and seek" or "kick the can," they also watched traffic passing on the highway. I don''t remember Grandma having a television. We weren''t television people; we talked, played games and watched traffic. 


Grandma served coffee with a rich butter pound cake that was served with a richer cream sauce. She also made a yellow cake with hard chocolate icing. She arranged pecan halves all over the outside of the chocolate cake. Once she lifted the heavy aluminum cake cover only to discover my brother and I had eaten all the pecans off her Sunday cake. 


Magazines say outdoor living is now the rage. There''s nothing new under the sun; folks have been living outdoors for years. I''ve heard tell of family members sleeping on the "sleeping porch" in hot humid summers before air conditioners, and using oscillating fans to keep the sweat off. Our outdoor living was done on the porch. 


The Bardwell house has a big wrap-around porch. It wasn''t always so, just a strip of a porch across the front and a small porch off the back. It seemed adequate enough, then the Prairie soil made a cataclysmic shift. When the contractor, Dale McNees, designed a foundation solution that included wraparound porches, the Bardwells were in hog heaven. 


There''s music on the porch, piped in by song birds singing, frogs croaking, the splash of a fish hitting top water and turtles plopping from bank to water. The view is splendid, new flowers bloom, old ones fade, hummingbirds visit and cardinals fuss.  


Coffee tastes better on the porch, even with store-bought cake and no sauce. Morning glories bloom, as if there could be any more glory to sipping coffee under the swishing of ceiling fans on the back porch.  


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.