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For years, my wife and I lived in apartments. We never had one with a balcony and thinking back, I don’t believe we ever had a patio.
I’m not sure if it was just dumb luck or the fact that the apartments with balconies were in better neighborhoods and less affordable than the apartments we wound up in. I never really wanted a balcony — I always had this fear that it would snap off the front of the building and crash to the ground.
We once stayed in a high-rise on vacation and had a ninth-floor balcony that I never used. My wife would go out and look at the beach or the sunset, and I would just look at them through the sliding glass door. If I was feeling adventurous, I would open the door.
I’m pretty sure the builders made sure the balcony would not detach from the building and it was made of concrete and steel, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
I would have been more inclined to vacation in a place with a patio, because that’s on the ground and not perched out into the wild blue yonder. It’s stationary and doesn’t give when you jump up and down on it. I don’t know why I would jump up and down on a balcony nine stories up, but I did. That little bit of natural shake and give the engineers work into the building was enough to make me go back inside.
I would have much preferred a patio. Or a terrace. Perhaps a lanai. A low-level deck would have been fine.
What I really wanted was a porch.
A porch says relaxation more than a balcony. A porch is a place for rocking chairs and big, soft-cushioned wood or wicker loveseats or a glider hanging by chains from the porch roof. You know, the kind with the wooden slat seat that’s never quite comfortable enough until you get just enough swing so you hear the chains ever so faintly.
A porch says iced tea and lemonade and an old book you have read a dozen or so times, but pull off the shelf every summer like it’s an old friend. You might sit on the glider and read, gently swaying back and forth, or you might sit on the porch steps with your back against the rail, that dog-eared paperback keeping you company.
You don’t need a radio or an iPod, because the sounds of the yard keep you listening.
I look outside my house and I think there is only one neighbor who uses her porch for anything other than a drop spot for Amazon packages. One of our neighbors smokes cigarettes and once in a while, you can see her on the porch, standing and looking bored, dragging on a Marlboro Light until she has had enough and deposits it into an old mayonnaise jar filled with water and about a year’s worth of old cigarette butts. She told me once she doesn’t like to smoke in the house because she doesn’t want her house to smell like cigarette smoke.
We have a very small porch. Well, we have a very small house, and very small houses come with very small porches. There is no room for a loveseat or a glider hanging from the porch roof. Ours is crammed full of potted plants and flowers and stuff that you use when you are dealing with a lot of potted plants and flowers.
There is a little table and under the little table is half a bag of potting soil. There are gardening gloves, a trowel, some plastic things my wife puts under her knees when she is digging around in the tiny garden that is near, but not next to the porch.
There is a watering can and some fire ant powder. There is a pair of Crocs or Croc knockoffs (crockoffs?) but I don’t know if they are mine or my wife’s. They are dark blue and ambiguously styled, so it’s anyone’s guess.
If you remember, Hobbs, the cat from next door, spent quite a lot of time on our porch before he moved away. I don’t know if he didn’t realize if it was not his porch or he did realize it was not his porch and ours was way cooler than his own.
I thought about writing this from the porch. I work from a laptop, and as its name implies, it can go pretty much anywhere. I’ve put a little Irish whiskey in a glass with ice and pulled out one of our lawn chairs.
It was nice on the porch for a little while. It’s humid outside and there is a gang of marauding mosquitoes who are either not too fond or incredibly too fond of me.
I decided to come back inside the house and set up at the dining room table. It’s well lit, comfortable, mosquito-free and it doesn’t smell like the bar at a bus station.
Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.