Amy Roberts: Replacing the Porch
Red Card Roberts
August 8, 2017
This past spring my parents decided it was time to move. They'd built their house over 15 years ago and it required updating. Nearing their 70s, neither of them had the desire to live through an extensive remodel. My father is prone to stressing out when my mom buys new coffee mugs, a full kitchen renovation would have sent him into cardiac arrest. So they each wrote down their new home "must haves," and met with their Realtor who, after looking at their list, suggested they build a custom home.
My parents have only ever built the homes they've lived in. My dad has a strong aversion to occupying previously lived-in space. But they'd both agreed they didn't want to build again. So nearly all the items on their "must have" list were moved to the "strongly preferred" column and they each emerged with only one must have. For my dad, it was new construction. My mom wanted a large wrap around, Southern-style front porch. "The kind you'd expect to see a fat cat and a couple rocking chairs on," she told me. Never mind that she doesn't have a rocking chair. Or a cat.
Weeks later, and with their house under contract, they still could not find an acceptable home to purchase. "Builders don't make front porches like that anymore," their Realtor told them. Short of time traveling to Mississippi in the 1950s, they'd either have to purchase a previously owned home, or settle for the more common cement slab near the front door. Or, buy separate residences. A solution I'm pretty sure they both entertained.
In the end, my dad emerged the winner and last week they moved into their never-before-occupied home with a lackluster front porch. As a result of their search efforts, my mom is now convinced the deterioration of society is directly linked to the disappearance of the front porch.
As a result of their search efforts, my mom is now convinced the deterioration of society is directly linked to the disappearance of the front porch.
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"When you were little, every adult in our neighborhood sat on the front porch as their kids played together. Porches were the catalyst to our sense of community and friendship. We planned birthday parties, gossiped, shared dinners, and solved each other's problems from our porches. Now, everyone just sits in their private fenced backyard," my mom lamented while on the phone with me.
I stared out the window at my own cement slab and solemnly agreed. My porch is nothing but a temporary holding cell for Amazon Prime shipments. It's a wonder I even know my neighbors.
But last week, I discovered a solution for the side effects of the vanishing verandah — the addition of a tiny home.
I spent much of my summer attending YouTube University and working with handymen (and some not so handymen), and now have a 240-square-foot petite retreat. It arrived in my driveway last week, where it spent several days before getting towed to a nearby lake. But in the time it was in my driveway, I met dozens of people who stopped by for a tour. Which, at that size, is basically two steps and one counterclockwise turn.
As I worked on the final touches, strangers stopped by and introduced themselves. They asked questions and offered to help. Some even brought wine to share. I ended up inviting a father and son inside my real house for lunch since they helped me move a refrigerator into the tiny house. Another couple dropped off a housewarming gift. It was as if my driveway was on Tinder, and everyone was swiping right.
A few days later, as it sat hooked up at the Jordanelle Reservoir, the greetings continued. Campers left their RVs to knock on the door of the tiny house. One person told me he'd driven his RV all over the country, and had never seen anything "so cute" in the world of 'glamping.'
Curiosity and compliments were one thing, but what I really noticed was the kindness. Again, strangers introduced themselves. They invited me to their campsite for dinner. One man helped me stabilize and level the house, then changed a tire on the trailer when he noticed it didn't look right. (Turns out, I'd failed that YouTube class and it was put on backwards.)
All in all, I've met, befriended, and had real conversations with dozens of people since acquiring a tiny house. While it might not be the most practical replacement for a front porch, it has certainly made a big impression. Which got me thinking: Maybe we don't need front porches to reconnect. We just need conversation kindling.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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