The Side Porch by Laurie Davis

Everything about my maternal grandmother’s house fascinated me. I loved going to her house to play, and the enclosed side porch was where I usually headed. It was towards the back of the house, just off the left side of the kitchen. Her home sat in the middle of a hill on a gravel road, and the side porch tilted slightly downhill. The windows faced north, and since there weren’t any curtains hanging on the windows, natural light came through inside.

Grandma used the side porch for extra kitchen storage since she didn’t have built-in cupboards. The porch overflowed with pots, pans, and cooking utensils. There was a slight step down from the kitchen into the porch, and since the porch was slightly tilted, it was like taking a fast walk downhill unless I braced myself first. As a child, walking into the side porch was like walking into a grown-up-sized dollhouse filled with fun things that fueled my imagination.

Just inside the entrance, on the right-hand side of the wall, hung an old-fashioned coffee jar grinder filled with coffee beans. The coffee grinder had a long heavy handle, and when turned, the room filled with an aroma that only ground coffee beans can create. I could never resist turning the handle. There was nothing on the bottom of the grinder to catch the ground coffee; therefore, it would spill onto the floor. I guess that’s why grandma had the floor covered with old newspapers. The newspapers were dried and yellowed from age and sun, sporting ads from Callahan’s Market and the Karmelkorn Bakery. The edges curled upwards on the ends. I thought it rather ingenious that she used newspapers like a rug. When it got a little messy, all she had to do was gather them up and burn them in the old stove. I’m sure it took less time than beating a rug clean or washing one in the old wringer washer.

I loved that side porch. It was everything a little girl could want in a playhouse, only life-size. No longer was I a child but a mom preparing dinner for her family. I would find the largest pot I could lift and an assortment of utensils. I would stir the make-believe soup until it was ready to serve. I grabbed dishes and set them on the red and white wooden table, along with mismatched glasses taken from the tall metal cabinet in the corner of the kitchen. There was a hidden drawer on the side of the kitchen table, and from that drawer, I grabbed knives, forks, and spoons, to finish setting the table.

I then served my pretend family the soup I had made. Although the conversation at the table may have seemed very stilted and one-sided, in my mind, my family was chatting up a storm.

As grandma got older, it became more difficult for her to get the washing to the backyard clothesline. She had to take the clothes from the old wringer washing machine sitting in the far corner of the kitchen, climb down the backstairs that led to the old root cellar and coal bin, and then out the back door, all the while carrying a heavy basket of laundry to hang on the clothesline.

Grandma was ingenious, though. The next time I visited her, my mouth fell open as I entered the side porch. I was in awe. Just beyond the window were knickers and bloomers flapping in the breeze as if they had a life of their own. She had rigged a pulley system from her side porch to her next-door neighbor’s tree. The neighbor, who happened to be a relative, kindly let her do it. Then when the clothes were ready to hang, she threw open the window and used the pulley to maneuver the clothes back and forth. No more going up and down dark narrow steps to get to the clothesline.

As soon as I saw that pulley system, my imagination went into overdrive. It became a tightrope high in the air, in the middle of an arena, while I walked across it. It was the line rigged over a raging river that I had to cross hand-over-hand to reach the other side. But even better, it became a place where I hung lunch tickets after I took my imaginary friend’s lunch orders to be clipped to the clothesline and zipped back to the kitchen that was the neighbor’s house.

I was always busy at grandma’s house. I had to feed family and friends. Usually, Grandma would find me stirring something in a pot, hanging menu tickets on the clothesline, and sending them to the make-believe kitchen across the way. I loved cooking back then. It only took a few minutes to make a great meal, and I never had a dish to wash, nor did I have a mess to clean up. And all my imaginary friends and family never once complained about my cooking.

Grandma never got upset about any mess I had made. She let me be a child playing at being a grown-up. When I look back at those times, I am thankful for grandma and her loving ways. She let me have the innocence of childhood that every child has the right to have.

Today’s kids always seem engaged with technology, whether on a cell phone, the internet, or gaming devices. Somehow I feel they’re missing out. They don’t know that by using their imagination, they can travel afar, have terrific adventures, and create long-lasting memories without using technology.

Grandma’s side porch was part of the “good ol’ days,” days of innocence when everything seemed possible. Children were expected to be obedient to their parents, relatives, teachers, and elders. It was a time when stores were closed on Sundays when families went to church and then sat down for meals together afterward.

I long for those days but doubt I will ever see them again. I think that’s why we have memories to reflect on things once loved and taken for granted. I am so thankful to my parents and grandparents for allowing me the chance to grow up in an age of innocence, to be raised with a foundation strong enough to build a life on, where respect and compassion were not just words in a dictionary but words to live by.


  1. Cheryl Sansing

    I remember that porch fondly. I have thought about it often. Lynn and I were just talking about that porch last week. As I was reading this story, I could visualize everything and it really brought me back to fond memories of that side porch!

  2. Wonderful memories.❤️

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