The End of Blissful Afternoons on Family Front Porches

Rosenbush Home, Circa 1920s

Rosenbush Home, Circa 1920s

recalls days of youthful Existentialism before Metaphysical Nilhism arrived to extinguish dreams of the future

Memories of having a family home is something I never take for granted. Not just a house, which is a physical structure, but the more esoteric construct that is home. Warmth by the fireplace, the cuddling of a parent holding a child, and cooing about how the world will be a better place now that ‘you’ are in it and the hope for a future not annihilated by a nuclear war between the USSR and USA.

My father’s home from 1915 until we moved into a new house the day after John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November, 1963.

This old photograph, from my collection, makes me appreciate front porches and how families spent hours talking, listening to music on the hand-cranked Victrola and enjoying the natural surroundings before progress demolished Thomas Street in a puff of smoke and greed by the uni and city over a decade ago.

There once was a time, in the not-too-distant-past, when southern homes had porches so one could sit outside and enjoy the splendors of nature; aaaah, how people today take for granted simple enjoyment of crickets chirping and frogs bellowing on a summer’s evening. The sickly sweet smell of honey suckles, growing on our nearby fence, is truly missed now that the only scent in this area now is predominated by automotive exhaust fumes. Our front and back yards had fig and pecan trees and grass on the lawn and in the back we more trees with many bird’s nests, and I had a rabbit, and we kept chickens, who laid fresh eggs for breakfast, in an era when one could still have such animals on their property before the government intervened to decide what one could, or more likely, not have on their family lots.

Technology, greed and human arrogance dissolved the Sunday afternoon esthetic.

Camaraderie has become as extinct as an 8-Track Cassette Player and simple pleasures of tenderness have been replaced with twenty fours of wide-screen television programming, entire lives spent on computers and conversations are more likely on a cell phone, while driving, than in person.

If you at this point you are laughing or have an air of smugness taking hold as you balk at the quaint and antiquated notion of families sitting around a dinner table, actually eating and not watching television, and have conversations with one another, then leave this café and never return.

Your destiny lies elsewhere.

Conversations are now relegated to time capsules and not to be opened until all life on this planet is extinct.

Today, a family is a 4G Network Cell phone commercial and , all too often, the only time everyone is together, as a family, is for graduations, weddings and funerals.

We left a neighborhood where everyone knew your name and blacks and whites lived nearby in harmony. I live in a neighborhood where the only time you see a neighbor is whizzing by in the automobiles; if you’re not in a neighborhood association or garden club, and I am not, you are to be ignored, and I am. From 1963, when my family moved to East Tuscaloosa, until this year, most everyone moved away or died and there are only six people left in a mile radius who I know by name.

What a difference forty seven years has made. When we move away in 1963, we left more than a small friendly block, we left a place where the grocer knew your name and needs, the pharmacist was trustworthy, and doctors made house calls, milk and dairy products were delivered to your back door (and still in bottles made of glass; and everyone knew everyone else.

Cars were only a few thousand dollars, and gas under forty cents per gallon, and trains chugged by with real smoke stacks billowing black and gray into the sky, a new suit, with two pairs of pants, cost under fifty dollars, and families watched out for one another.

As the nuclear family mentality was replaced with 1970s progress, an unsettling euphemism for destruction, the once simple, short street, with houses and families and the sound of children’s laughter, ice cubes clacking inside glasses of tea and the sweet aroma of flowers and the dozens of pecan trees was gone. Even the birds and squirrels had to leave and thanks to a state institution of higher learning the surrounding area was forever rearranged from neighborhood to nightmare in the hood.

The tree-lined ballpark became a parking lot, the parking deck; the old church on the corner, a supermarket; Howard-Johnson’s restaurant gave way to an expensive block of coffee shot, ice cream parlor, hair salon, faux Mexican restaurant and other businesses; Morrison’s Cafeteria, t-shirt shop and restaurant; Rexall’s 1-cent Drug Store, Smith Brother’s Grocery, a pizza parlor, pool hall and liquor store…all gone to make room for fast food restaurants and bars.

So, as I sat here today and looked around the area of my first ten years it is with sadness I recall that all the beauty is gone forever; many very old trees have recently – and this is ongoing – are cut down, glass and steel and concrete is replacing every last section of earth for miles around as the University of Alabama and City of Tuscaloosa construct and reconstruct buildings and the region is choking with the stench of madness that is development.

Recently, while enjoying loneliness during an instant of ambiguous postulation I realized how much I abhorred so much that once I either like or loved, but rarely hated; the noise, as college students, in fast moving vehicles rocket by, the unvarying crash of steel and concrete next door in the uni’s little construction zone which is merely a holding area for piles of gravel, tractors, trailers, dump trucks, steel beams, portable outhouses, dumpsters and a sanctuary for debris of every conceivable – or inconceivable breed – and noses-thumbed at my business from the highest levels of government.

The day may soon come when I am no longer here and I will not be missed any more than I will miss all in this vicinity. It is no longer my home, my heart or my soul as it was in my youth.
It is a wound that cannot heal; there is no joy in living here, at this juncture, and as I pondered my faith in fate in the future I realized I was not destined to be a part of it and became predisposed to accepting my transitory misanthropy and acquiesce to prolong the struggle against tyranny a little longer and succeed at personal achievements that are creative and inspirational and beautiful …

As I am about to complete this modest reminiscence, a small black and white cat jumps unto the window facing ledge me, while one the indoor femme fatale felines, sitting on the 2-Wire modem, grooms, and mews a reminder that it is suppertime. I stop writing, go retrieve a can of wet cat food from the office kitchen and go feed five semi-feral felines outside. It is at this instant I realize how simple a pleasure it is to care for another living being, whether animal or human, and I have to repeat to myself this planet on which I live and breathe wasn’t always like it is today and I take a sigh of relief as I feel a cool breeze upon my mind’s eye as I find myself in 1958 on the front porch swing, swaying to and fro, and wondering what it would be like in the 21st Century.

Wonder no more, Little Henry; the future is here and it is not what you dreamt when you were five but make the best of it, somewhere out there, at this moment, is another five year old dreaming of the future in 2068, when you’ll be long gone but they will have the opportunities to reverse the world to an uncomplicated, better moment in time than the one I am living in today.

This photo is a sad reminder of what I now view from my “front porch” in 2010, a football stadium in the distance, and the rubble of a once sweet neighborhood, scant yards from where once were trees, birds, squirrels and human beings:

View from the Porch in 2010

View from the Porch in 2010