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.