The Literal View Part 2: Foot Traffic

The name of my blog was always meant to be a figurative view: my observations on small town America, the life of a middle class family, the simple things that happen around me. Now though, five weeks into self isolation with several more weeks on the horizon, my world has narrowed drastically making the literal “View from the Porch” so much more than it used to be…

The road that runs past my porch has always had a modest amount of foot traffic. Our street runs from one end of town to the other anchoring the Middle and High School three blocks to the left and, the Elementary school five blocks to the right. Consequently, backpack toting children are a regular site. In addition, we have, I suspect, more dogs than people living in town and they, with their respective owners walk past our house quiet frequently. We walk too, my family and I. My husband walks religiously, several miles a day, the rest of us more sporadicly. The walking isn’t a new thing but I’ve noticed, during the weeks we’ve been sheltering in place, some changes in the foot traffic. Maybe it stems from my own perception but I feel like the walks my neighbors are taking mean a lot more than they once did.

Back when things were “normal,” people walked past with a purposeful stride, getting in some exercise before the next task of their day. This was when the kids still had to get to soccer practice or be picked up from school, when meetings needed to be attended and friends met for dinner or a movie. Now my neighbors tend to stroll. They meander. Walks have become their tasks, their destinations, their social engagements. They wave and chat to people on porches or across the street, checking on news or how others are coping. The basic human contact, even from a distance, is the real purpose of the walks. After a particular rainy period, the traffic out front gets even more manic, like an awakening. The street fills with those anxious to feel the sky and the sun.

Another change I’ve noticed is the amount of people in each walking group. Before it was generally a single or a pair of pedestrians whereas now whole families are out, walking or biking. Those who never walked before are forced into it due to the lack of other choices.  I’ve noticed many former classmates of my children’s, now shut out of their colleges and living back at home, suddenly finding themselves out getting exercise with mom and dad. They look a bit awkward, trying to  figure out how they got back to this place, but the parents, given the unexpected gift of their young adult kids back under their roof if only for a little while are seeing some silver lining in an otherwise difficult situation. The small children, by comparison, are thrilled to have the whole family out riding bikes or going on scavenger hunts. I hope that is one trend that continues after the grown-ups return to their busy lives.

Perhaps the most signicant change I’ve noticed between myself and my neighbors as they walk past my house is the sense of comaraderie we now share. When we wave or nod to each other, it’s with the understanding that we are now part of a team experiencing something unprecidented; living through a situation we never expected. Regardless of our lives before all this started, we are now in the same place. I look at the neighbors I’ve known for years, like the families with children my daughter’s age and I know that we both understand that this required isolation is robbing our college seniors their right to a graduation ceremony or internship or even a celebratory trip somewhere, but we also realize that our children’s health and safety is a more important gift than any of those things. I wave to the parents with children from the school where I work and we understand that we need to stay positive for the young ones. We need to make this an adventure for them, keep the scarier parts at bay while still impressing upon them the importance of what we are doing.

We share this bond now, those walkers and I. We smile and wave to each other with a look that says, “We’ve got this. This will pass and when we reach the other we’ll know we did the best we could and that we did it together.”

The Literal View From the Porch

The name of my blog was always meant to be a figurative view: my observations on small town America, the life of a middle class family, the simple things that happen around me. Now though, four weeks into self isolation with four more weeks on the horizon, my world has narrowed drastically making the literal “View from the Porch” so much more than it used to be.

I’ve always loved our neighborhood with it’s quaint old houses and tall trees but now our street has become, not just my view but also, my window to the world and I’ve come to appreciate it all the more. Today, I realized, gazing out, that there are many stories I could tell just about the things going on right outside my door.

What follows is the first of what I hope will be a series of tales cataloging the world outside my window during this strange and unusual time.

The Porch Guy

Across the street and to the left of my house sit two enormous homes. Each was built well over a hundred years ago and both are grand old buildings designed with peaks, decorative molding and deep porches. They were probably the first two homes on the block and I can imagine they were once owned by well-to-do families with many children. Behind them, at the bottom of their property line, is an odd little dead end street. I’ve been told that this road was where the carriage houses and stables for those two house once stood.

The house closest to us, a big blue farm house, it’s brown roof dotted with dormers, had been converted into four separate apartments when we first moved here 16 years ago. There were two apartments on the first floor, one in front and one around back, one on the second floor and one up on the third that was accessed by treacherous wooden stairs climbing up the side. Then, about 8 years back, the house was taken over by a lovely woman named Gail and her husband, whose name constantly escapes me (Craig?). I think it was her family home since her daughter was already living in the top apartment and there has been no “For Sale” sign to state that they were actually “new” owners. I’ve never asked but I suspect that an elderly relative passed away and she and her husband were the next in line.

Gail and I are “Yoo-Hoo” neighbors. That means that we don’t hang out in each other’s kitchen drinking coffee or call each other on the phone but we do catch up any time we happen to be outside at the same time (Yoo-hoo, neighboor! What have you been up to?) Via these sidewalk conversations, I learned that Gail’s first order of business after they moved in was to turn the house mostly back into a single family home. The one apartment she left in tact was the first floor rear, which is accessed around the left of the front porch. It was this apartment that became the home of “The Porch Guy.”

The Porch Guy was an elderly gentleman who looks just like you would imagine a fine old grandfather would look, complete with a bushy grey mustache and soft flannel shirts. When he first appeared, we noticed that he spent a great deal of time sitting in the little chair beside the front door, no matter the weather or time of day. My kids would come in and say “Porch Guy is outside again” or “Do you think it’s too cold for Porch Guy to be sitting out all this time?” Sometimes he would walk up the street and back, not in a hurry, just a easy stroll. He also had a nifty grey sedan that he often took on short errands and we would speculate about where he went and what he bought. That was about all we knew about him except that he always had a wave and a “Hi-ya!” for anyone who walked past.

Over time, we learned that “Porch Guy” was actually Gail’s father-in-law and that his name was Larry. Not “Mister” something, just Larry. That’s what he prefered. So we took to shouting “Hello” to him whenever we came and went and he in turn learned our names (although he still refers to Miss Dee as “Girl” occasionally-“Hi-ya, Girl! How was school?”). The best thing about Larry though is his disposition. I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone as upbeat and pleasant. He unfailingly has good words to say to anyone who passes and has become the unofficial ambassador of the neighborhood. He also has the most wonderful laugh, often chuckling at his own jokes. It seems to come from deep down and bursts out with an unapologetic blast! Sometimes in the evenings, if the windows are open, we can hear Larry laughing and laughing with someone who has stopped to pass the time.

Three Springs ago we noticed that Larry had been absent from the front porch for some time. D-man ran into Gail’s husband who told him that his dad was in the hospital. He had fallen down, a result of ongoing health issues and would probably not be home for several weeks, if at all. We asked him to please send our regards and to wish him well. After that, we watched and waited, The neighborhood seemed so quiet. No one calling out greetings or making corny jokes. Finally, a month or so later, as I was getting out of my car, I heard a gravelly voice call out “Hi-Ya! How ya been?” There he was, right back at his post next to the front door. I crossed the street and stood there talking, catching up, happy to see he was still just the same joyful, positive guy. The first thing I said to my family when I went in was “Hey, Larry’s back!”

The last few years we’ve made a habit of taking a tin of cookies over to Larry at Christmas time and, of course, we never pass without exchanging greetings. He walks with a cane now and his hair is a lot more grey. I’ve also noticed that he doesn’t drive anymore but I don’t think he minds. There is always someone to talk to especially now with the shelter in place. Our street has become a parade of families out walking with children or dogs. Each and every one of them gets a “Hi-ya!” from Larry.

Our old friend being there with his kind thoughts and positive outlook, happy just to have his comfortable seat and a place in the sunshine, helps to remind me that this anxious time will pass and life will undoubtedly, go on.

If We Were Having Coffee…Lazy Sunday (finally!)

If we were having coffee…on this bright, crisp afternoon in Southern New Jersey, I would say, “Sit!! Relax! Please pardon my PJs!” Today I’m feeling lazy and enjoying, what feel like, the first “do nothing” day in forever!! Although last Sunday I was also doing nothing but that was because I’d gotten socked with a combination flu-sinus infection so I guess it’s actually the first chose-to-do-nothing day. I’m still dragging a cough around with me but at least I no longer feel as though I’ve been hit by a bus.

So, happy February! I’m pretty psyched that Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow and that Spring is just around the corner. Let’s face it though, Phil’s gonna say whatever gets him back in his warm bed the fastest. Personally I’d have bitten the guy with the hat the minute he reached in my door, but I’m a bit cranky in the morning anyway.

If we were having coffee… with I’d tell you all about the wonderful visit we had last night from my nephew Kyle and his fiancé. They are visiting from California and its the first we’d seen them since they got engaged. If you happen to have read my yet-unfinished-series “Adventures in Hollywood” you might remember that it was Kyle that my sister Linda and I went to visit last November. He showed us the sites and we met his lady then although they weren’t betrothed at the time. Her name is Tuka and she’s originally from Persia/Iran but has been in the US since she was a little girl. She brought the most amazing eggplant dip to share. We plied her with typical Jersey food (hoagies and Tasty Cakes!). We are definitely smitten with her and cant wait for the wedding. They are talking about a destination wedding to Iceland so they can be married under the Northern Lights. Sounds very romantic but I’m not sure how it will fit our budget! Guess we have a few years to think about it.

Hanging with Kyle and Tuka last year in Venice Beach (Can you tell I was a bit cold?!)

Well, I do need to get a few things done today so I guess I should finish up this chat. I hope you enjoyed your French Roast and conversation. Please stop by Eclectic Allies‘ and visit the rest of the Coffee Share Posts!

Getting Creative in 2019

Happy New Year! It’s a little late, I know, but it still feels pretty new to me. Like many of us, I made some plans and resolutions for 2019 and one of them was to spend more time being creative (thanks Jill Kuhn for your inspiration!)

The biggest hurdle I’ve had with this was not finding the motivation, but finding a convenient space where I could spread out and not have to put everything away each time my family needed to have a meal! Some of my supplies were down in the basement, some in the kitchen hutch, a few in the pantry and even my bedroom closet! Well that’s all changed now!

My husband slaved through the last few weeks of the summer renovating what was formerly the kids play area downstairs (I mean, our youngest is 20, I think they are past needing it!) He moved his collections and “man cave” stuff down there as well as our guest area, freeing up our smallest bedroom for my art space. Yay!

Weeks were spent clearing out the room, stripping wallpaper and painting the walls a nice bright white. We are planning on replacing the carpet with a clean grey laminate but I’ll have to save a bit more for that. I’d purchased a smaller, black desk for our computer, which will still share the room so that was moved in. The final step was assembling the amazing new art desk my wonderful hubby had given me for my birthday back in December. It’s got so many compartments and it’s on wheels!

I’ve been picking up items here and there, curtains and cool storage containers (Anyone who knows me can tell you I get weirdly jazzed about organization!) My sister had a nifty little bookcase up for grabs (we actually traded her the bed frame from that room that we no longer needed-win/win!) and I was able to find a desk chair that looks brand new for just $25 on one of those online yard sale sites.

Then….FINALLY….this past Sunday, I collected my many art supplies from their many hiding places and put them away in my very own art room!! I’ve been like a kid on Christmas morning, just giddy with excitement and creative motivation, painting and experimenting with new techniques. One of the best parts is thatI can just leave it all out, ready for the next time I find a few minutes to create. I do have to remember to close the door, though, so the cat won’t walk through the wet paint or eat the brushes. She’s like that!

I’m hoping that this new found creative jag lasts a long, long time making 2019 the year of creativity! It just goes to show that sometimes resolutions or plans can take some patience, a bit of elbow grease and a little faith but they can happen. May all your plans for the coming year be every bit as gratifying!

If We Were Having Coffee…Homestretch to the Holidays

Morning! Only time for a quick coffee break this Sunday. Two days left to get everything ready for the twenty some guests we are expecting on Christmas Day. The tree is up…

The D-Man and I picked it out in record time (20 minutes) during last weekends rain storm. It’s pretty little tree, if I do say so myself. The jury is still out on this one…

So far so good. We did tie the tree to the wall, just in case.

My day today is a whirlwind of last minute have-to-dos. Sorry, no time for coffee or cake today, but I do want to pass on a holiday wish to my blog buddies for a healthy, happy Holiday Season!

Merry Christmas, to my friends who celebrate, and a very joyous New Year to all!

(Don’t forget to stop by Eclectic Allie for more Coffee Share Posts)

I Believe

When you work with children during this time of year, sooner or later one of them will ask, “Do you believe in Santa?” I usually give a quick “Of course I do!” then change the subject because there are some cans of worms you just don’t want to open, especially with other people’s children.

However, I’ve often thought if I were to give a  longer answer, this is what I would say…

I believe in Santa Claus.

I believe in the generosity of mind and spirit,

in listening to others, their wants and needs and acting on them.

 

I believe in Christmas Elves.

I believe in hard work and a positive attitude,

in the satisfaction of a job well done.

 

I believe in Santa’s Reindeer

I believe in pushing yourself to reach new heights,

in being steadfast and reliable and occasionally attempting the impossible.

 

I believe in the Christmas Star and the Christmas Spirit.

I believe in looking up for guidance and for help in finding your way, 

I believe in having faith in people

and in trusting that there is still so much good in the world.

Merry Christmas.🎄

If We Were Having Coffee…Sunshine Vs Snow

Good morning! If we were having coffee here in Southern New Jersey we would be enjoying brilliant sunshine and crisp Fall temperatures. I would fill your cup with some nice hot French roast and explain that I am AOK with the cold as long as that big yellow thing is in the sky. This is much better then the mess we had on Thursday! Our area was a blanket of snow accompanied by sleet, hale and wind. Yuck!! I don’t really mind snow just not this early in the season and not with all that other fun stuff. Nope, I am in a much better mood today. Believe me, you wouldn’t have wanted to share coffee with me a few days ago!

Any-hoo…

If we were having coffee…I would ask about your plans for today and tell you that my day is relatively free and that I’m quite ok with that. Having a somewhat introverted personality means that I relish schedule-free time. My brain and body relaxes. Miss Dee is very much an introvert as well. For example, this Monday she was on her way back up to school all prepared for a test in class Tuesday morning and a lot of studying and work before her next class Wednesday evening. However, when she stopped, ten minutes from home to fill up her gas tank, she received a text from her Tuesday professor explaining that he was stuck at the airport in Florida due to engine issues and would have to cancel class the next day, so she turned around and came right back home! She said she did a little happy dance in the front seat of her VW because, to an introvert, there is nothing better than canceled plans. Not everyone will understand that but I bet some of you will!

If we were having coffee…I would tell you that I don’t think young Mr D will be enjoying his day off as much as I will. The children in his classroom have shared their germs and he is down with a head cold and some respiratory issues. This is on top an abscess tooth he had to have root canal on this Tuesday! I’m glad next week is a short one because he is going to need some time off. The D-man and I have been working in the school system for many years and have built up our resistance. Guess he still needs to build up a few more or, maybe change to a profession where people don’t sneeze or wipe their hands on you!

If we were having coffee…I would ask you if you were ready for a refill and maybe a piece of cheese danish? No homemade goodies today, I’m afraid, although the D-man is planning on making a white chocolate cranberry cheesecake for Thanksgiving. It sounds yummy! I’ll save a piece for you for our next coffee date. In the meantime, tell me about your week and then we can go visit the other Coffee Share Posts hosted by the wonderful Eclectic Allie. Relax! Put your feet up! I’ve got loads of time!

If We Were Having Coffee-Catching Up

If we were having coffee… on this blustery South Jersey morning, I would invite you in, offering a cup of strong French roast or tea if you prefer. I would apologize for my long absence from the Coffee Share siting that life simply got in the way for a bit.  You’d completely understand, I’m sure.

Things have been happening around here, I’d explain. In the months I’ve been away, young Mr D has graduated from college and moved into the working world, still finding his way but moving forward just the same. My darling Miss Dee is working her way through her collegiate junior year,  shuttling between home and a university 45 minutes north. She’s become very disillusioned with said university, both the classes and living away so has decided to return to our local college next semester. This is a happy decision for me because it will lighten my worry field a bit!

As for me and the D-man, we’ve just been tap dancing through the school year, working on some home renovations and enjoying time with friends and family. What more could we ask!

If we were having coffee…I would say that while on the topic of friends, I was happy to spend this past Sunday in the company of my oldest and dearest, four girlfriends I’ve know for over thirty-five years! How wonderful and relaxing it is to keep company with people who know you so well and share so much of your history.  We’ve grown into such diverse, busy lives; one a single working mom, one a divorcée with grown children, one a retired widow and one like me, married and finishing up raising her children. We find it impossible to get together more than a few times a year and yet, despite the time and our differences  we still connect the moment we get together, talking in an abbreviated language only we understand and laughing at old jokes only we would get. One friend just returned from London where she went with her daughter to cheer on our local Philadelphia Eagles football team, and one just returned from Spain where she visited her daugher who is studying abroad. As you can imagine, we had lots to talk about!

If we were having coffee…I would tell you that we took advantage of our school holiday yesterday by hopping on over the bridge to Philadelphia and visiting the Museum of the American Revolution.  It’s been open for a few years now but we’ve never had a chance to go before. My whole family are history buffs, in fact, my father-in-law taught high school history several careers ago! He is like our own private tour guide when we visit historic places! This trip, however was just me, D-man, and Miss Dee.

The Museum, located at 3rd and Chestnut, right near the historic district, is set up wonderfully efficient, starting with an introductory film about the Revolution, then winding through a circle of displays chronicling it from year to year.  There is a giant replica of a liberty tree complete with an actual section taken from the last one that stood in Boston.  They have artifacts and stories from soldiers on each side and the civilians caught in the middle as well as lots of interactive displays. I found it interesting and informative especially the section on how the Revolution effected the Native Americans, which is a subject that isn’t given nearly enough attention. Probably the most important artifact on display there is the tent that housed General George Washington through out the war. Amazingly it survived in remarkable condition, handed down from generation to generation and donated along with his personal duffle bag to the museum when it opened.  What an incredible part of American History.

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Miss Dee channeling her inner revolutionary by sitting in a replica chair from the first Continental Congress.

It was a great way to spend a rainy Friday and I would highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in the Philadelphia area.  Tickets were more than reasonable,($19 for adults with a discount for students and educators) and parking at a nearby garage was less than $20.

Well, if we were having coffee…I would probably notice that it was time to start my day.  The bathroom won’t clean itself and the groceries won’t magically appear in the pantry.<sigh> Thanks so much for stopping by and letting me catch up a bit.  Hop on over to Eclectic Allie and catch up with a few more friends or even join in Weekend Coffee Share yourself.  I’d love to hear what you’ve been up too!

Happy Saturday!