I believe in front porches and bus stops. We have both in front of our house. When we were house hunting my partner e-mailed me a photograph of the house and titled it “our perfect house.” As soon as I opened it and saw the graceful lines of the 1923 bungalow with its big front porch, I knew it was true. For eleven years we’d been living in apartment and making do with a fire escape and a tiny stoop whenever we wanted to read a book outside on a warm spring day or let our elderly cat have a breath of fresh air.
I was less enchanted with the bus stop the first time we visited the house. Since we use public transportation regularly it would undoubtedly be convenient to have the stop just steps from our door, but would our fellow passengers be noisy? Would they leave trash? As it turns out my fears were mostly unfounded. There is occasional noise and trash, but less than I anticipated, even after our town government took away the trashcan it could no longer afford to empty. And there have been benefits to living at the bus stop I never imagined.
Our son was one year old when we moved and we have had countless finger-painting and bubble-blowing sessions on the porch. We picnicked there regularly last summer when he was attending a half-day kindergarten readiness program and came home around lunchtime. When the new baby came last spring, I rocked her with many a colicky evening. These are the kind of things I imagined doing on the porch. But other things happened there, too. While we were sitting on the porch, we watched the world and the world came to us. I noticed the woman across the street getting bigger and bigger, then finally saw her with a tiny bundle in her arms. We became acquainted with the mail carrier who came to our house almost every day last summer during our after-school picnics and often stayed a few minutes to chat with my son about his day at school.
It was at the bus stop, however, where I got to know the neighbors even better. I learned the woman down the street whose husband shares my son’s name (and who told me this almost every time we spoke) separated from that husband and now never comments on my son’s name anymore. I learned an elderly neighbor’s husband had died and that the neighbors down the street had adopted a three-year-old girl from Russia. A lot of what I know about my neighbors, I learned from talking with them at the bus stop. And now when people I know from the bus stop see me on the porch, they call to me and I yell a greeting or come to the fence to chat. I’m happy to live in a house with a porch, but I am just as happy to live in a house with a bus stop.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.