Screened In upholds the traditional southern porch role as both the heart of southern community within childhood and as a southern matriarch losing relevance with each passing generation. Like a mother, a front porch offers protection and tries its best to keep undesired objects out; or more importantly, to keep the child in. But just like a mother there are limits to how much it can actually shield. A porch can not keep all the elements and insects out, no more than a mother can hope to keep all her children at home. Eventually a child will “move on down the road” out on their own, no longer restricted by the community they were raised in but also no longer protected by it. The front porch balances inside and outside just as a maternal figure balances nurture and stifling. Screened In celebrates the nostalgia of the porched childhood, it reconciles the sun and the mosquitoes of the homecoming, and remembers the matriarch of the porch with all of her complexities.
Despite its rightful place as a true southern icon, the Southern front porch has found itself disappearing for years. The child has left and grown but finds fault in what used to bring it comfort.
While sitting on her porch, my paternal grandmother, once asked me, “Does your mother’s house have a porch like mine?” Before I could answer she spoke up, “ No... I suppose it wouldn’t, they don’t make houses like mine anymore.”
Porches are converted to sunrooms where the realities of worn hole-filled screens and rotting supports are removed and only the warmth, sun, and nostalgia for the community remains. The South has outgrown the porch. Finding it no longer needed to feign politeness, the South lost the desire to commune with its neighbors through screened walls and choose to either remove the porch or moved this aged matriarch to the more private backyard to try and obscure all reference to the grand porches of the plantations; the real root of its “southerness.”