#12: Front Porches
-From “Things Kristi Likes About America” 2012 Edition
It’s already nearly dark when we come out to the porch. Or rather, when we sit down on the front steps, between the house and the giant fir tree in the front yard. We’ve always called it a porch, these seven stairs leading to doorstep just large enough for a mom and three kids to crowd onto, while Mom juggles groceries and searches for keys in her purse. After traveling east this summer and discovering real porches, I suspect that we’re being flexible with the term. This isn’t some capacious veranda, with chairs and swings, candles and lemonade. It’s seven steps and a landing.
Still, we come out to enjoy the cool twilight at the end of a Seattle summer day. This summer of travel, I’ve marveled at Midwestern fireflies and sat in the cozy stillness of a hot East Coast evening, but tonight we’re resting in the grey dusk after what was for us a hot day. Timmy and I, Holly and her boyfriend, Noah and his two-days-away bride, we each take a step. We open the bottle of Riesling we found that day in the vineyard, months ago in Alsace, and vowed to save for sometime special. This moment, two days from our brother’s wedding, is more than special.
Noah’s wedding will take up most of the next two days, days full of flowers and dresses, music and wine in mason jars. It will be an enchanting, intentional evening, ceremony at its very best. Yet it’s this evening on the front porch that I’ll think of first when I remember this summer, busy with travel and family.
There have been other times like this, moments of unexpected glory and relationship. A walk across the late-June snow with family I seldom see. An evening picnic at an unexpected lake in Bozeman, Montana. Breakfast with girlfriends before another wedding, savoring the bonds of friendship before they are stretched to encompass two continents. Dinner at sunset on the deck by a North Carolina beach, as I learn to know and be known by a new family entirely. All lovely, these quiet scenes of community, a picture of the ways in which we’re knit together across distances that span the globe.
In the last two years I’ve asked many long-term missionaries how they do it, living the majority of their lives stretched out so far from family and friends. While their answers vary, for me this summer in Seattle has revealed that loving isn’t compromised by distance, necessarily, but that it requires continued investment. So I come home, sit on the porch, retie the knots that bind me to these people I love. Perhaps it would be easier to stay away, less painful than the process of homecoming and leave-taking, but in the end I feel grateful even for the goodbyes, reminders that I am truly loved, that I love deeply, that this place is still home.
Our parents and grandmother join us outside after a while, dragging chairs down to the sidewalk. We bring out blankets to ward off the chill of darkness, strain to see what stars we can in the city night sky. Neighbors I’ve known for most of my life filter in and out, taking dogs for evening walks or popping over to visit the party. We laugh. We remember. We discuss. We listen. We love. We hesitate to leave, even when we’re chilly and tired, longing to keep the magic of the moment alive for just a little longer. We stay, long into the night, savoring the sweetness of time together.