These Front Doors

Front doors are for show around here. In winter the wreaths come out and adorn them, sprucing up their usually lifeless bodies for a month or two before going back into the attic for another year. Summer brings a fresh paint job — sometimes white, sometimes blue — and as people pass they gasp in awe, knowing that something has changed, but not quite sure what that something is. Because front doors are usually invisible, only necessary if we need an egress point, or, you know, if Jehovah’s Witnesses come to call.

When I was a kid it was all about those front doors. They were our portals to the wide world outside as back doors were relegated to overseeing a drab back porch that was falling apart, and hard packed earth that was under the pretense of being a garden. I was never fooled. We were latchkey kids, too, and that front door was a refuge from the havoc going on in the streets of Southwest Philadelphia. Tag, you’re it. Let us in.

But now these front doors are afterthoughts, lapses in selective memory that serve as reminders of an era long gone, when people were proud of their walkways, when the postman and the milkman came proudly up to the front porch and used the wooden knocker to gain entrance to the domicile. They would drop off a carton of milk, or a sheaf of letters, walking through that door, sitting down at the dining room table, accepting cake, and then heading back out again through that heavy door, closing it solidly behind them.

Front doors used to mean community, hospitality, and decor, but around here that’s not the case. I’m not even sure it was the case in that aforementioned bygone era. Something about this place screams, “time standing still.” I think if I were here in the 1950s the front doors would still be merely decorative, even if a Studebaker sat idling in the driveway, that the postman would still be coming around back to drop packages off on the stoop before leaving in a cloud of dust. Because, you see, these front doors don’t have stories to tell.

These front doors are just for show, and I find that unbearably sad.



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