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-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.

img_1497

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!

If We Were Having Coffee…1/3/15

imageThe If we were having coffee… I would welcome you to my home and to the New Year. I would also pour you a cup of something hot because winter has finally arrived here in New Jersey! Hooray! The poor confused plants in my yard didn’t know what season it was. The lilac bush was sprouting leaves and the hydrangea had buds. I can’t believe I’m saying this, I am most definitely a summer girl, but I was excited to see frost on the windows this morning.

After, I was done babbling about the weather, I would ask how your week has gone. Did you ring in the New Year in a quiet way or did you usher it in with a BANG!? We did quiet around here. My mother-in-law the amazing MJ traditionally spends the night with us. We played games (Clue), ate snacks (lots of left over cookies), and drank wine (well, she and I did, at least 😊).

We also re-watched the season finale of  “Sherlock” so we would be ready for the season premiere on January first, which, by the way, was FANTASTIC! It was a bit challenging to follow but, I don’t want to say anything else in case some fans out there have not seen it yet. We recorded it and Miss Dee, Hubby and I are planning to watch it again tonight just to pick up all the fun stuff we missed the first time around. For anyone who has never had the pleasure, I highly recommend it. The game is on!

If we were having coffee…I would share that Hubby and I had a very nice get together with friends last evening. We called it a “Holiday Wrap-Up Party.” Aren’t we clever? 😊 We try to have one  most years just as a chance to reconnect with some old friends and get to know the new ones better. We had a nice group, both friends we’ve known since high school, and people from right here in town  that we have met more recently. It’s always fun to see the connections that are made when you bring a group of people together from what seems like totally different worlds. There were some very entertaining conversations!

If we were having coffee…I would tell you that I needed to cut our chat a little short this morning because Hubby and I are heading out this morning to visit his Uncle who is in a rehab center following a stroke and triple bypass surgery. We hear he is doing well but it will be good to see for ourselves and hopefully hear more about his adventures. Apparently he has been giving the physical therapist some grief because they won’t let him travel around without assistance! I can understand why they would frown on that.

Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing the first Coffee Share of 2016 with me! Don’t forget to visit Diana at Part Time Monster  so you can check out the other participating blogs.

I

G is for Girlfriends

I have four girlfriends that I’ve known for most of my life. Three I met freshman year of high school, the third I met in sixth grade. I might have met that one sooner but she used to throw dirt balls at me whenever I rode my bike past her house. I think she was jealous of my green bike with the banana seat and the sissy bar but that’s a whole other story. Anyway, after being inseparable through high school, we all went off to college or jobs then life took over and BAM it’s almost 40 years later.

One night, when I couldn’t sleep, I took inventory of our collective lives. These are some of the things I came up with:

Between us we have about 18 years of college.Two of us work in education, one in nursing and two in finance.

We’ve had a total of 5 weddings but only four of us have been married. Two of us have been divorced, one remarried and one widowed.

Between us we have 12 beautiful children including a sweet little girl who was adopted from Guatemala.

Two of us have traveled to Europe, four to Bermuda, and two to Mexico and of course we all love “The Shore” because we are, after all, Jersey girls!

We’ve had our triumphs and we’ve had losses and we have loved and supported each other through all of it. When I tell people that I still have the same girlfriends that I had in high school sometimes they’re impressed. I’m impressed too because the older we get the harded it’s become to keep in touch. But we have and I’m proud of that.

Girlfriends rock!