Warmest regards: Some good things disappear
By Pattie Mihalik
Decades ago, when I was a young wife and mother, I did a lot of entertaining — the kind that’s not possible today.
This is how it worked.
After we had eaten and cleared away the dinner dishes, my favorite ritual involved going out to one of my favorite spots — my front porch.
My husband and I were often joined by our daughters as we sat on the porch and shared thoughts.
When friends drove by or walked past our house and saw us sitting on the porch they would “drop in.” That meant they pulled up some chairs and joined us on the porch for some casual conversation.
They would stay for a half-hour or so while we just enjoyed some pleasant social interaction.
That’s it. That was our porch sitting version of entertaining.
That one little slice of life from the past illustrates three things that aren’t very common anymore.
First of all, few of us spend much time sitting on our front porch. Most of the big new homes in my area have a beautiful covered porch. Some are wraparound porches with enough room for a lot of people.
Yet, I can’t remember the last time I saw people sitting on those fancy porches. I do know it had to be long ago.
We don’t do much porch sitting anymore.
Some say it was air-conditioning that ended the ritual of porch sitting for many people who would rather sit inside where it’s cool.
I’m sure that’s part of it, especially here in Florida where one feels like a piece of overcooked toast if we spend any time outdoors.
It’s more than our preference for air-conditioned comfort that has changed. We have moved toward a way of life that frowns on “dropping in.” We seem to value our privacy more than we value casual socializing.
If we go for a walk and see friends or neighbors sitting outside, the most socializing we do is to say hello. I wouldn’t dream of plopping myself down to have a social visit as we did in the past.
“Dropping in,” in any form, is no longer socially accepted.
A friend of mine insists “dropping in” was never acceptable. She says even in Victorian times one left name cards and requested an appointment to visit. “I don’t think there was ever a decade that followed when people thought it was OK to drop in,” she insisted.
I tell her I don’t know about other parts of the country, but in the coal regions we didn’t frown on dropping in to socialize.
Perhaps times were simpler back then when both spouses didn’t have to work just to stay financially afloat.
Perhaps we felt less all-around pressure. Whatever the reason, I know I looked forward to having friends and family drop in anytime to visit.
I do have to admit when I moved from the coal regions to Carbon County I soon learned there was no such thing as spontaneous visits. All socializing was planned in advance.
I called it “friendship by appointment only.”
Everywhere I go socializing is still by appointment only.
It’s even that way with best friends. I have “girlfriend adventures” with my friend Jeanne every week. Sometimes it’s several times a week. But we never just pop into each other’s home. That would be fine with me. But Jeanne is a call-first person.
When I am expecting her at my house, she doesn’t just show up as scheduled. She calls me when she is leaving the house so I know when she will be there.
One day I was trying to reach her about an event we had scheduled so I could make the reservations. She never answered her cellphone.
Since I was at the pool supply store that’s right in her neighborhood, I thought I would just drop in and ask her preference. She was in the middle of a project and I could see it was not a good time.
We never do know when it’s convenient to visit if we don’t call first, do we?
Spontaneous get-togethers (those not planned well in advance) are also among the things that have disappeared with the years.
I seldom even get to share a spontaneous activity with my husband. He prefers to know well in advance.
In contrast to that, my friend Jan and I have shared a close friendship for more than 30 years. It all started on a spur-of-the-moment whim.
When my husband and I were going to dinner at a country restaurant, we had a sudden idea to call Franck and Jan to invite them to come go along. We were just casual acquaintances at the time but we wanted to know them better.
Jan was in the middle of making dinner when we called. She immediately said, “Sure, we’ll join you,” and turned off what she was cooking.
That was the start of a beautiful friendship that has been so rewarding over the years.
Here’s another regret I have about something that has disappeared — calling someone and having them answer the phone. Because telemarketers plague us all, many people don’t answer the phone unless they recognize the number. Many of us miss a lot of personal calls because of that.
I realize life constantly changes. But sometimes I miss what has disappeared.
Contact Pattie Mihalik at email@example.com.