In the summer of sequester, my front porch was my saving grace. It’s not what you’d call a “nice” porch. The table is a decaying Ikea desk that a friend repurposed with a couple of two-by-fours laid across the top. One of the chairs has a hole in the mesh seating from a sparkler mishap. It’s cluttered with baby detritus: the aspirational Exersaucer where my wife and I once imagined our 1-year-old patiently playing while we work alongside him (ha!), the scooter we use to push him up and down (and up and down) our 12-foot front walkway. But this summer, it was the most important place in our lives. It was where we hosted socially distant dinners, played a few tunes while our son napped, chatted with neighbors, and washed away the long days with an 8 p.m. nightcap.
But as the leaves and the temperature begin to drop and it sits increasingly idle, my front porch has become a reminder of the brutal winter ahead: the cold weather, the inevitable spike in COVID deaths as some people seek social solace indoors, the darkness, the political insanity of the post-election chaos, and the mad-dash lame duck. And mostly the sheer isolation my family and millions of others will suffer as our venues for human company become uninhabitable. We thought a heat lamp might buy us a few degrees and weeks, as if there was any chance they wouldn’t be long sold out, just as the country can vainly hope that maybe global warming will overexert itself this winter before taking a rest for the next decade or 10.
The clutter’s still there, less a sign now of activity than of apathy. The neighbors have receded indoors, and the music and meals too, sans company, of course. I can only hope that as we round the corner of winter and this miserable political season, my porch—taunting and reproaching me every time I step out the door—will become a reminder instead that spring (porch dinners! impromptu gatherings! dare one say vaccine?) is just ahead. —Aaron Wiener