We’ll leave the light on for you

August 4, 2017


Southern Hospitality
photo courtesy of: Rhoda Vickers Southern Hospitality Blog

My heart always melts just a little when I see a front porch with a glowing lamp near the door. Just as afternoon slips into evening, it always feels good just when the lightening bugs begin to twinkle, to remember mama saying, “Go cut on the lamp. Your Daddy will be home soon.”

Southerners have elevated the front porch into a main room, although nowadays, home builders seem to have forgotten how much we appreciate this feature, just as they’ve abandoned the formal dining room where we love to gather, linger and mingle over delicious food. Porches now seem to be an afterthought or caricature of the real thing. Not deep enough to hold a rocking chair that can truly be rocked, or a swing for proper swinging, or space for the cat to nap, porches on many newer homes are lacking in character, size and charm.

But if you are blessed in the porch area, you know how quickly it becomes a way of life to sit with friends, family, or even alone and contemplate the world. 

The addition of a table with a small lamp near the door always lets you know you’re expected, wanted and loved. It says, “Let me make it easier for you to get inside.” “Don’t be afraid of the dark, here we are.” The warm glow of a real light bulb, not one of the new glaring energy efficient swirly bulbs, elevated the porch into an important part of the home.

I was so happy when my dog Mabel finally got too old to want to bolt off the porch and run through the neighbor’s yards. She finally turned into a good porch dog, and would pose at the top of the steps like a Sphynx, queen of all she surveyed. The boys and I would swing and sing, my husband would play his guitar, we’d read books during the day, and tell ghost stories at night. We’d wave to neighbors who were walking their dogs, and they’d often venture onto the porch to sit and visit for a while. In the evening, I’d step outside the kitchen door and click on the lamp. Even if we weren’t expecting anyone, it still warmed the house and somehow completed the look, much like pearls on a pretty girl. 

Of course, we could have read and sang indoors, but then, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the additional serenading of crickets or chirping birds. A good fan dangling from the haint blue ceiling kept the jumbo mosquitoes away. One porch we loved proved to be a spot too difficult to have a normal conversation many nights, because the croaking frogs were so loud. Song of the South, indeed. 

I’m embarrassed to death that my current house has a front porch so skinny a snake couldn’t get adequate rest. My small porch makes me feel like less of a hostess, a sorry friend, someone who isn’t welcoming — which in the South, is the last thing you want to be. To compensate for the depression of a small front porch, I have a side porch that is a decent size for two or three people at the most, and a large screened back porch that is perfect for napping. Technically, the lamp really should go on the front porch, but the side porch is where most people come and go, so I’m trying to find the right table and lamp for that spot. 

When Motel 6 adopted the genius slogan, “We’ll leave the light on for you.” They knew they’d hit a soft spot with Americans. 

To know someone is waiting for you and hoping you arrive safely is knowing you are loved and cared for, and amidst all the danger and strife in the world, isn’t that comforting? To know we’re worthy and loved enough to have someone leave the porch light on for us warms the porch and blesses our hearts. 

Visit my Pinterest board, “Front Porch Charm” to see hundreds of beautiful front porch ideas!

  • We have a tiny porch, but we keep the porch light on all night. And even inside, all day, all night at least four or five lamps never get turned off. So warm and cozy!

  • Sad to say we don’t have a front porch, merely a front stoop, but we do keep our front lights on to welcome guests and to welcome us home.

    • Porches may have come and gone, but welcoming friends is always in style!

  • I remember those wonderful porches when visiting both my grandparents. Our home has a “stoop” out front, and a wee tiny porch coming into the kitchen. I make up for it on our back with lots of comfortable furniture and dining tables. I had to add the veranda, there was nothing even reseambling any living space other that an open hot concrete patio! I think we lost a lot when we lost our front porches and sidewalks. Some of the new developments have these features and if I were young that’s exactly what i would want.

    • You’re so creative, I’m sure your stoop looks welcoming and full of charm!

  • This is so sweet Leslie Anne! I do love porch sitting! In Birmingham we have woods in our backyard and the crickets are so loud on summer nights it’s unbelievable! I love memories of catching lightning bugs and the reference to Motel 6’s signature slogan!

  • I remember a few mothers who turned on porch lights so your date couldn’t steal goodnight kisses!

  • My Aunt Margaret had this fabulous front porch that as children and teens we spent all of our summer evenings rocking and swinging, it was a true Southern porch!!! What a sweet read, Leslie Anne!

  • Beautiful memories. I remember sitting on my grandparent’s front porch every evening. Well, the adults did while the kids played. My current home doesn’t have a front porch and I think it takes away from getting to know your neighbors as well. Enjoyed reading this one.

    • Thanks Sandy. I wish homebuilders would listen to our wishes and not just aim for huge square footage!

  • What wonderful memories. Loved your story .

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