Lessons from my Front Porch

This week, my front porch was in pieces. A simple desire to have it refreshed with a new coat of paint led to the discovery of some faulty, rotted-out pillars most likely destroyed during last year’s hellish blizzard. As I watched the men take it down, piece-by-piece, it got me thinking about this house and my life.

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I have always wanted a porch. I wanted to first live in an apartment in NYC, then buy a brownstone and then move to a house with a long winding driveway and a porch.

I never did live in an apartment in NYC. (I did in Miami, so close enough.) And I never did own a brownstone. (I did own a quaint house, again, in Miami). But when I moved back up to New York, I finally got my porch.

When I first saw this house online, the porch was not the main attraction. No one room really was – it was more the feel of the place. It had character. It was not a boxed out, prefabbed home with long narrow hallways. Instead, it is very open with wide archways between rooms. It also has an open, circular hallway upstairs, a center counter to eat at in the kitchen, and a long, open family room at the back of the house. While other houses looked and felt just like houses, this one looked and felt like a home.

The front porch was the icing on the cake. I saw the house when it was still buried under ice and snow, the front path barely shoveled. So all I did was glance at it on my way into the house, happy by the fact that it was there. Then, as I fell more in love with the house, the fact that the porch was a welcoming smile plastered on front seemed like an added bonus; a sign that this house was meant to be mine.

Whenever I told people about the house “back up north,” I ended my description with, “And it has a front porch. I’ve always wanted a front porch.”

But even though I had always wanted one, I didn’t really realize the actualization of the dream until moving day. I had a house full of willing volunteers – friends, family, friends of family – inside carrying heavy boxes of toys, books, clothes, and pots and pans to their designated rooms. As I was carrying a box in, I saw someone had placed my son’s tricycle – which had been in storage with the rest of our things for months while we were in between places – by the front steps.

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The sight of it hit me like a ton of bricks and made me stop in my tracks. I was a mom, had a child and now the perfect house with a front porch in which to raise my family. One of my dreams had come true, yet still, it was nothing like I imagined it would be.

I had dreamed of lazy Sunday mornings spent on the porch with my head resting on my husband’s lap as I read the newspaper and the kids played nearby. Of long summer days where the neighborhood kids spent hours lounging on the porch, visible outside my front windows. Of taking pictures of our family through the years on the same front steps, seeing our faces and holiday decorations change through the seasons and years.

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When a dream materializes into reality, it’s almost never exactly as we pictured it in the vacuum-sealed confines of our minds. Why do we so often forget that we cannot control everything? Or forget to factor in the seemingly endless outside forces constantly at play?

I have a porch but lost a husband. I have a child, but not the full, boisterous family I once imagined. My son leans his head on me when we read outside. I do take pictures each season of him on the front steps, and try to take ones of us when I can. I have a full, happy life, yet it is so different from the one I envisioned.

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My porch has been torn down and put back together. So has my life. I never would have imagined either when I dreamed of this porch all those years ago. I guess that is one of the simultaneous perks and curses of life; it is always full of surprises. It’s not always good, yet not always bad. It just is.

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