Monday, March 24, 2014

Porches and Shade Trees

As strange as it may seem to many, I grew up in a home without air conditioning.  My parents were the great holdouts, believing  it to be an unnecessary expense and  artificial temperatures detrimental to good health.  While my family home is of traditional southern design, its floor to ceiling windows, placed to catch even the slightest of breeze, offered little relief from the most humid of summer days.  Of course, it made getting ready for a date quite a long did not want to rush and risk your carefully coiffured hair and makeup.

Today it seems central air conditioning is less of a luxury and more of a necessity in our hot, humid Southern climate, but what has only been a common way of life since the 1960's has dramatically changed the landscape, architecture, culture, and traditions of our beloved South. 

This artificial environment has all but put an end to much of our outdoor living and socializing, and I believe a great deal of our gentle grace has gone with it.

Our lives were not lived by the clock, but by the elements.  Rising early in the morning to enjoy the cool air before the humidity covered like a wet wool blanket.  Southern ladies knew of no better way to start the day than with their bibles and daily devotions on the porch.  This is a custom I follow to this day and I know of no better way to set the day right.

Great-grandmother Bates' farm c.1930
Morning chores were always completed as early as possible to beat the heat and allowed us the leisure of sitting on our deep, inviting covered porches, drinking iced tea, before evening duties commenced.

By evening, it was simply too warm to stay indoors, so we would retire to either the front porch swing or beneath a large shade tree and pass the time retelling old family stories.  We were not sitting in front of a television being passive observers, but active participants, each remembering a bit of the story to urge Daddy on.  Sun-tanned feet tucked beneath us, enthralled with his deep baritone, he reminisced of sitting beneath the shade trees on his grandmother's farm.  His daddy planted those trees as a boy before being sent off to war. While the house is long gone, those trees continue to provide a cool, sweet respite from a hot summer day and a connection to the past all Southerns long for.

Granddaddy's trees

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