In the south, a home’s porch is a respected, sacred thing often attached to tales of tall glasses of iced tea or eras before air conditioning, when there was still such a thing as community. My parents have mostly been the vessels of this verbal legacy, instilling the value of a deep, wrap-around front porch.
I moved out of their house when I was 18, when it was still theirs and not yet his. Then, it was sky blue with a meager aggregate stoop at the front door. It wasn’t until their marriage had truly come unglued, every stitch pulled from its seam, and nothing but a shaky façade remaining, that my mother decided the house needed revamping. Blue was no longer sufficient and it needed a porch. Some people acquire a new pet, take up a hobby, or actually go through with the divorce. None of these options seemed quite as fitting to her as a complete overhaul of the worn vinyl siding and outer structure of my childhood home. She commissioned not one, but two levels of hopeful architecture. Much like the grandeur of a church lady’s hat or the carat weight of a woman’s rock, my mother must have believed that her stately double porches would somehow declare a picture of greatness.
I can remember going home in the last year of their matrimonial tolerance. I would usually arrive on a Friday evening and wake to the upstairs door as it wooshed open around eight or nine on Saturday morning. Before cracking open my eyes I could already imagine my mother in her gauzy pajamas rocking slowly in the wicker porch swing, and my father sitting stoically in the chair against the wall, now a golden yellow. They would both be sipping black coffee, probably not speaking, but somehow finding solace in the silence of the waking world. Once I joined them, one would inevitably suggest that I grab a cup of my own from downstairs. I would be assured that the pot was still warm and that my fancy creamer was somewhere, although I’d have to dig a little in the fridge to find it.
I could not have known that those would be the last meaningful memories of the three of us as a family, after all, their undulating threats of leaving and staying had been a part of my life for just as long as the two of them, together, had. I sometimes wonder how much success, if any, those sweeping porches gained in her mind and heart, or if instead they played a simple role in my mother’s big scheme of gilding the truth. No matter their purpose or how they did or didn’t serve it, the presence of porches wasn’t enough to perpetuate the game of husband and wife.