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My childhood home had a large porch that stretched across the front of the house. It was a special place to watch the world go by, a sanctuary where I viewed many thunderstorms and enjoyed the fragrance of the refreshing air afterward, a place to listen to the symphony of crickets, a wonderful spot bursting with memories.

Preparations began every Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, as Mom always referred to it. We began by washing down the porch and the white shades, then scrubbing the well-worn white wicker furniture, where pink pillows and cushions would be placed. We hung baskets of pink petunias that danced from the kiss of warm summer breezes. Tables were decorated with flowering plants and a pink citronella candle, which had a strong lemony scent.

The porch was the meeting place for every parade, and afterward Mom always fixed a special brunch. All family parties started in the back yard, but after a picnic or an occasional water fight, we gathered in the evening on the front porch to watch lightning bugs sparkle and shine.

One night, much to our neighbors’ horror, we all sang the Sister Sledge song “We are Family.” Dad was the only one who could carry a tune. I’ll never forget one Fourth of July when my brother stuck sparklers all over the front yard and lit them all at once; what a gorgeous, glittering sight.

Every major event in my life – including my First Communion, First Reconciliation, Confirmation, graduations, prom and wedding – was photographed in front of our house.

Not surprisingly, I carry on the same tradition with my own boys in front of our home, and have even added a few more occasions, like the first day of school.

When I was 16, I had back surgery and was in a body cast for six months. Since I couldn’t physically do much, my friends came over to sit with me to pass the time. We created games by guessing what color car would drive by first, and ate watermelon to see who could spit the seeds the farthest.

My husband proposed to me while we sat on those porch steps. I didn’t realize it at first, but while he was holding my hand, he removed my ring and replaced it with a diamond engagement ring. He asked me if it felt any different. It actually didn’t, but when he held my hand up to the light, it certainly looked different.

My boys loved spending time with Mom on her porch, where an occasional kitty would wander up to say hello. They played games, read stories, drew pictures and ate ice cream cones there. They will always treasure those blissful days of laughter.

Even as Mom began to enter the sad darkness of dementia, “porch sitting” still made her happy. Although our conversations became different, they were no less special.

As I reflect back, the very last time my entire family was together on the porch was after my beloved Mom’s funeral. It was then that I painfully realized my life had changed. I would no longer have her unconditional love, and my place of comfort and security would never be the same.

After we sold our cherished family home, my three siblings and I posed one last time as we closed that bittersweet chapter in our lives. The house may now be gone, but the precious memories created there will continue to live on in my heart.