Ode to My Front Porch

June 2nd, 2014 by Emma Durand-Wood

I might be kind of a nerd (okay, I know I’m kind of a nerd), but I really love Thursdays because that’s the day my neighbourhood’s community newspaper, The Herald, is delivered. There are usually all sorts of neat little tidbits inside: notices for upcoming events, stories about area residents and the interesting things they do with their lives, Kathryne Grisim‘s restaurant reviews, and even the odd advertisement catches my eye. One of the paper’s regular columns is called “Community Correspondent”, where residents share short essays on whatever topic is on their mind. Sometimes (but not always) it seems to be written by an older person, bemoaning the current state of the city or the world. Most of the time, I kind of agree with them. I guess I’m an old soul. Or a curmudgeon. Or both. 😉

This past week the column was titled “What happened to the screened veranda?“. In it, Transcona resident Ron Buffie mentions that some of the city’s newer houses have “that old-timey look with verandas across the front”, but wonders why none of them are screened! Buffie’s article is charming and funny and makes some very good points.

Well, Ron, we have a screened veranda (we call it the porch) and we adore it. And I agree with you in wondering “why more houses are not being built with verandas, screened verandas.  It seems like such a sensible and inexpensive method of helping to enjoy our summers.”

Enjoyment is the key word here. Call me crazy, but I have never been a particularly big fan of mosquitoes (and unfortunately, they have an absurdly strong affinity for me). And I used to love the intense Winnipeg summer sunshine, but something in me shifted when I had my first baby and now I am a shade seeker. Our shady, screened front porch is our haven from the sun and the bugs, and since the weather has finally warmed up, we’ve been enjoying it at all hours of the day.

Our son begs to eat breakfast outside almost every morning, and it’s a pleasure to breathe in the fresh morning air, watching folks stream up and down the street on their way to work or school. During the scorching afternoons we’ll drag the Exersaucer onto the porch, plunk our daughter in it, and enjoy popping in and out of the porch as we blow bubbles in the front yard, putter in the garden, or chat with neighbours. But the best time to enjoy the porch is at night when the mosquitoes would make it exceedingly unpleasant to be outside. We get a bit of a breeze floating through, and the stillness of the street is calming and relaxing. Add a glass of sangria or beer and it’s really good. And when the bells from the Orthodox church across the river begin to chime, their rich tones meandering through our street’s lush elm canopy, it’s perfection.

Last summer, after our daughter was born, my sister came to visit for a few weeks. She lives in the relentlessly hot and humid climes of the Niagara region, and to be honest, I was worried about how she would fare in Winnipeg. But we lucked out with a couple weeks of marginally cooler-than-usual weather, and it turned out to be a blissful reprieve for her. The porch was her favourite place to be, preferably while snuggled up with a newborn. I will always remember the twinkle in her eye and excitement in her voice as she proposed, nightly, “Let’s go sit on the porch!” Even though I was exhausted and should have been going to bed, the simple act of staying up to enjoy a beautiful July evening made just being at home feel like a treat. With some candles lit and a summery cocktail in hand, it almost felt like being on vacation in some dreamy, distant land.

So, my house is almost a hundred years old (century party next year!). There are a lot of things about it that look shabby without a hint of chic, and it drives me crazy when we have to spend money on boring, invisible things like updating electrical or plumbing. But if our screened porch (or veranda, as I may have to start calling it) is a relic of the olden days, of a time when people spent more time outside with each other and less time by themselves in front of screens, then I for one am glad to have a home that reflects that era. Our screened porch is one of my favourite things about my house, and also about summertime in Winnipeg.

Three cheers for screened verandas!

4 Responses to “Ode to My Front Porch”

  1. Delighted to see your post on your veranda. Verandas like yours across the front of the house, screened or unscreened, were a constant feature of houses in Winnipeg built prior to WWII. I think that neighbourhood life was a little different, a little more social, when people sat out at the front of their houses, instead of barbecuing in the back yard.

    And what about the veranda’s cousin, the “sleeping porch”. The house I grew up in in Crescentwood had a sleeping porch on the second floor, at the back of the house. Come June, my brothers would sleep out there every night until the fall chased them back to their bedrooms.

  2. Emma Durand-Wood says:

    Catherine, I love the idea of a sleeping porch! So nice to get that wonderful fresh air. I used to sleep in the screened porch at my grandparents’ lake house, too. I wonder if many people still use their screened areas for that purpose?

  3. Emma, I think air-conditioning was the death knell for the sleeping porch. I suspect that many of them were glazed and insulated and incorporated into the rest of the house once a/c came on the scene.

    I’m planning a series of posts on verandas on my blog, http://www.portageandslain.com, come the fall. I hope you’ll check it out.

  4. Emma Durand-Wood says:

    Sweet – I will check it out, for sure!!

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