My husband and I had been honing the art of “porching” for numerous years when new neighbors moved in across the street. Rumor had it that they “wanted the house”, not the “neighbor thing”. Consequently, each Tuesday evening as they deposited their trash at the curb, we were able to observe them through the gauzy curtains of the porch ferns. On one such night, my husband and the new neighbor, rolling their respective trash bins down the driveway, reached the curb simultaneously. Peering over the great green hulk, my husband, tendering his nod in the direction of our porch, grunted, man-style, “beer?”. With bewildering comprehension, the neighbor headed directly toward our porch.
Throughout that entire summer, Tuesday night became an excuse for gathering on the porch to schmooze and to sip wine. Curious passersby, total strangers, were invited right off the sidewalk and up onto the porch. “What’s the occasion?”, they’d ask. “Trash night”, we declared flatly.
As the oblique rays of the fading sun burnished the reds and yellows of the potted plants and set the ferns aglow like lacy Moorish lanterns, we lit the candles. We exchanged news, leaned into each other’s stories and gradually into each other’s lives. When crisp fall breezes began to send dry leaves rustling across the porch floor, we reluctantly lugged the wicker chairs back into the basement. Our Tuesday trash nights were to be stowed away as well, along with a new-found sense of the ridiculous, which now was to hibernate in rhythm with Nature itself.
Spring came, and as the world once again greened out in neon, and the potted plants lined up brightly along the ledge, we received a directive from our neighbor. We were told to gather at the curb the following evening; it was a Tuesday. We duly appeared, and at 7pm sharp, we glimpsed our neighbor’s trash bin lumbering around the corner of his house and down the driveway. Instead of halting at the curb, as was the custom, the hulk was driven straight out into the middle of the street, where it stopped. To our delight and amazement, the lid popped open, and out of the bin emerged our neighbor’s wife, resplendent in a shimmering blue sequined and be-feathered tap dancing costume! We all cheered as our neighbor proclaimed the opening of the new “trash season.”
Approximately 100 people now line the curb each spring as they await the appearance of the “vampy, campy Queen of Trash” as she ascends regally from the lower dust bin realms. Trash fare (the inevitable “trash plate”) follows, featuring my husband’s famous hot sauce. On these nights, the porch lies still and abandoned, for whatever began there has long since spilled over with its own impulse to expand.
"Something there is that doesn't love a wall", wrote the poet Robert Frost. Perhaps that deep-seated "something" also doesn't love a humdrum existence that isolates, or the strain required to seem well-adjusted, which puts up fences. Perhaps that something is more at home on front porches in city neighborhoods like ours, where some good neighbors have found life a little sweeter being serious about silliness.
Who can say? It will take a thousand and one trash nights to find out.