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Porches are links from the past to the present for most families

One of the problems with the world - just one, mind you - is that people don't do enough porch sittin' anymore. In fact, it is a trend these days to forego porches and settle for patios and decks.

The problem with that is there is no roof, so it's not inviting and comfortable to sit in the glaring sun and touch the inside corners of your soul.

Porches provide moments for settling down into a comfortable rocker, feeling a fresh breeze ripple across your skin, hearing nature's sounds and watching squirrels as they scamper from limb to limb. It is calming and pure.

A porch, I have decided, is God's gift to a troubled soul.

When I was designing my house, I was firm with the architect. "In addition to the front porch, I want a back porch that runs the full length of the house," I said.

From the beginning, every visitor has stepped out on the back porch, breathed a deep sigh drawn from a yearning for quietness in a hectic world and said, "This is the best part of the entire house."

And, it is.

I spend every possible moment on that back porch with a book, a cup of coffee or my laptop. It is the place where my soul gently releases its best words for the stories I weave. It is there that I can lean my head against the rocker and travel back in time to the porches of my childhood.

The front porch on my Maw-maw's little house in the mountains looked out over a hard dirt front yard, which she kept immaculately clean with an old broom. Every day or so, she swept her front yard. Sometimes when I fret over the aggravation of a lawn, I think how the old mountain folks had the right idea - all dirt and no grass or weeds.

More often than not, yard birds - usually a couple of hens and a rooster - would peck at the ground and saunter around with an imperial air of being the kingdom's rulers. We grandkids would dash in from church on summer Sundays, throw on our swimsuits, and head down to the swimming hole for hours of laughter and splashes.

We'd walk back, trailing river drops, to find Daddy, still wearing his Sunday best and sitting in an old creaky rocker, having conversations with other family members. Sometimes they debated the Bible, other times they talked of a sky that wouldn't rain, or the rising cost of getting by.

At my childhood home, there is a sweet porch that, though not large, is roomy enough. Decades ago, Mama planted roses there and Daddy stretched wire from one end to another so that she could train the climbing roses to run the length of the porch. They were magnificent. In the spring, hundreds of red roses would lay their beauty in the bosom of that porch. Once, I tried to count them but gave up when I got to 300.

I strung beans, shelled peas and read "Gone With the Wind" in the glider on that porch, which is now shaded by a huge maple tree. There were times that Mama and I just sat there quietly and watched the occasional cars ramble by.

In a time not too far passed, I stood at the door and watched Daddy in a rocker on that porch. As the afternoon sun streamed over his head, he fought valiantly, though in vain, to hold back death's call.

I guess all porches have both happy and sad memories.

In all honesty, porches can't solve the world's problems of war, famine and disease. But they can soothe a troubled soul.

And that, if you ask me, is worth pulling up a rocker and sitting down.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)" and "The Town That Came A-Courtin.'"