Where I grew up, on the west side of Rochester, NY, was a suburban mecca of new homes built during the 1960s and 1970s on expanses of former farm land. All the homes are split levels, colonials, and raised ranches.
The new homeowners of that era (my parents’ generation) wanted “new” houses – not the same kind of houses they grew up in that were built during the first quarter of the 20th century. These new houses did not have front porches. These houses had patios and decks, but, because land redevelopment didn’t leave mature trees, shade was hard to come by.
My parents did what any sane person would do. They screened-in our two-car garage during the summer months. This gave a cool, breezy place to congregate when the house became too hot.
Our screened-in garage had an indoor-outdoor carpet we unrolled for the season, a picnic table, our old orange recliner (hey – our house was *hot* by 1980s standards), Grandma’s old console stereo, a frosty old refrigerator, a black & white antenna television on a cart, lawn chairs, and our bicycles.
We rocked that garage all hours of the day. I spent my adolescent and teenage summers playing monopoly, reading books, eating popsicles, and watching soaps in that garage. So did most of my neighbors – some of whom took the concept to a form of art by adding a stove and kitchen sink (you know who you are) to their screened-in garage. This setup was both popular in and peculiar to our side of town.
My paternal grandparents lived in the same house my Dad grew up in well into the 1980s. It was an American Foursquare built circa 1925…with a front porch. To me, that porch was exotic. And when The Husband and I started house hunting, my stipulation was that our house had to be an ‘old house with a porch’.
Our enclosed front porch expands our home by a whole room during the summer. We ‘open’ it for the season as soon as daily temperatures stay above 50 degrees, and it is our haven. We eat all of our meals out there and on the weekend evenings we have ourselves a little porch party.
A Porch Party is usually preceded by a grilled meal and involves cocktails, white Christmas lights and the music of our youth. To me, it is as fun as sipping sodas while listening to the “Hot 9 at 9” countdown on the console stereo. Twenty-five years later, the drinks are stronger, but the music is the same.
Whether it’s a screened-in garage or a porch done in homage to the Caribbean, a room that is a seasonal sanctuary is a Summer Classic.