A friend briefly sat on my porch last evening, while I gathered myself to leave. I remarked that I occupy a rocker on my porch as often as possible. Not in the winter, I assume, he replied, with a knowing smile. But yes: in the winter. I often sit outside on my porch wrapped in my great-grandmother's quilt, reading and sipping hot tea.
My porch affinity solidified in childhood. Our house had a wide brick porch. My mother kept metal lawn chairs at one end. The other end made a perfect play area, with its low wall and cement floor, smooth and ready for chalk drawing.
And now one summer afternoon calls to me, to my seven-year-old self who stands helpless on the porch, sick with a fever and forbidden to run around. My brothers chase each other in the wicked St. Louis heat, around the tree, down the driveway, out into the street while my sister Adrienne who is babysitting us brings lemonade and tells them to be careful. If I am seven, Mark is nine, Kevin is eleven, and Frank is four. Frank and Stevie, just three years old, would be napping inside.
The big boys drag a hose around and spray each other. First one holds the nozzle, then the other, running madly, soaked, shorts and shirts sticking to their thin bodies. I would not run like that; could not; but I stare longingly at the coolness of the water. I imagine that I would enjoy their fun, though I am sure they would dash away, faster than my legs could take me. I would be left behind, but at least I would not be imprisoned on the porch.
Adrienne comes out of the house and tells me, sit down, you are supposed to be resting, and I comply. My eyes do not leave the scene in the yard. Then Adrienne says, I have an idea. She gathers leaves and sticks while I watch, wondering what she plans. I rise again, ignoring my fever, brushing my hand impatiently to rub the warm flush from my face. I follow Adrienne to the far side of the porch and stand beside her as she bends down and stuffs the debris into the small square drainage holes spaced along the bottom of the porch wall.
Then she calls to Mark, Hand me the hose, and she takes it from him, dangling it over the end wall of the porch. My eyes surely grow large as I watch the porch with its downward slant fill with water, trapped behind the tiny dams which Adrienne has built.
Adrienne chases me inside to put on a swimming suit. When I return to the porch, I see that I have my own little private pool, ten inches of water at the far end, just enough to wet my feet closer to the house's front door where the porch is higher. I slowly walk from one end to the other while Adrienne sits and watches. At the lowest point, with the deepest water, I turn and look at her with a silent question. She gestures. Then I lower my little bottom down, and before I realize it will happen, water flows over my legs drenching me with its coolness.
A few minutes later, Mark and Kevin realize what Adrienne has done and they leap over the wall, into my little oasis. One of them grabs the hose. They raise me onto the wall with their strong arms, and I am smiling, laughing, and we turn the hose on each other and on the house, and on the tree next to the porch, wilder and wilder. We keep going until Adrienne realizes that every inch of everything has been soaked and tells us: Okay, you guys, that's enough. And it is. Enough.
Here in Kansas City, the neighbor walks down our shared driveway and I raise my coffee mug to salute him. The sun has risen high enough to cast its broad beams on the deck attached to my front porch. The plants stretch to receive its warmth. I tighten my robe against the chilly air, take another sip, and think about my day. Plenty of chores await me. But nothing urgent; nothing immediate; and I settle into the rocking chair on my porch. Life can wait.