Both of my grandmothers had front porches, but nothing as elaborate as all that. I remember visiting them when I was a child, sometimes just a day, sometimes a weekend, and once or twice a whole week after we moved a distance away. It was usually summer and neither of them had air conditioners, and though I know it was as hot as it is nowadays, I don’t remember it. I sat on their front porches much of the day, the swing making its own breeze as I dangled my bare feet over the cool, smooth, gray-painted plank floor.
One porch was out in the country next to a grove of oranges and kumquats with horses grazing in the pasture behind it. The other was in the middle of town, its steps fronting on Main Street, and we would watch people go by as we hid in the cool shade behind a morning glory vine growing up and across the porch posts and over the roof.
My grandmothers never tired of talking to me, answering every question I asked, telling stories of “the olden days” that fascinated me because they seemed so foreign to my life. I couldn’t imagine a house with no electricity and no running water. I couldn’t imagine life with no television set droning on in the background.
I enjoyed those times with my parents too, their stories of playing without real toys, Christmases that brought an orange and some nuts and maybe a little hard candy in a stocking, and washing clothes with a wringer washer. I remember my mother telling about her grandmother, a woman who rose before light to make a breakfast of pork chops, eggs, grits, gravy, and biscuits every morning while the men were out doing the first chores, a meal filling enough to last them through a day of hard farm work in southern Georgia.
My own boys liked to ask about our childhoods while we sat shucking corn every summer. Silking was their job, tedious work that invited a lot of talking and listening just to keep yourself going until it was done. Their dad grew up on the side of a hill in the Ozarks in an old stone house without running water, only bare light bulbs in each room, and a bucket of drinking water in the kitchen on which his mother would sometimes have to break a layer of ice on a cold winter morning. He could tell stories about milking cows before school at the age of 6, a small school where two grades sat in each class, about pushing his bed up against the chimney in the unfinished attic to stay warm, and taking baths on the back porch in the summer.
Sharing these things is important. This is the way one generation connects to the next. Knowing where we came from answers many of the natural longings we all have, and helps us to find meaning in our lives. I worry about the children now, who scarcely have any time with their parents at all, much less enough time for stories about their pasts and the questions that should instantly follow. It also leads to questions and stories about more important things, and makes them far more willing to listen to you when it
God has always expected his people to make time to talk to their children.
And when in time to come your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' you shall say to him, 'By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.' It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt." Ex 13:14-16.
And Joshua said to them, "Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, 'What do those stones mean to you?' then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever." Josh 4:5-7.
When your son asks you in time to come, 'What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?' then you shall say to your son, 'We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Deut 6:20-21.
What happens when a generation arises that doesn’t know these things? And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, that knew not Jehovah, nor yet the work which he had wrought for Israel. And the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, Judg 2:10,11.
That’s why this is so important. Talk to your children today, or your grandchildren, or even your neighbor’s children. Make a connection to them that will bring them closer to you and through that, closer to God. If you think you don’t have the time, then give something up. Providing them a physical inheritance isn’t nearly as important as providing them a spiritual one.
Find yourself a “front porch” and make use of it before it’s too late.
Telling to the generation to come the praises of Jehovah, And his strength, and his wondrous works that he has done. That the generation to come might know, even the children that should be born; Who should arise and tell it to their children, That they might set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep his commandments, Psalm 78:4,6,7.