Porch Light

 

By Joe Rector

Today’s youth have missed out on so many good things that we old people enjoyed. Don’t tell me how much better life is now because I realize how fortunate we are to have all the technology that supposedly makes things easier. How could we ever survive without refrigerators that remind us to pick up items at the grocery store? Our lives are completer with vehicles that drive themselves. Most important are our cell phones that suck too much attention and time from our lives.

That old phone with the rotary dial was important to us older folks. Phone calls to Oak Ridge were long-distance with exorbitant charges. Families used the phone to keep in touch with loved ones and friends. Teenaged boys dialed numbers of girls but hung up, maybe even a half dozen times, before hearing them say “hello.” They awkwardly carried on conversations until mustering enough courage to ask them out.

If the girl agreed to go out, the boy would spend all Saturday washing and waxing and vacuuming the old car. The shower was long, and he shaved “peach fuzz” from his face without the use of a five-blade gel strip razor, and doused himself with English Leather, Canoe, or some other strong-smelling cologne. Sometimes he would leave early and would simply drive through the girl’s neighborhood.

At some point, he pulled in the driveway and walked to the front door. His head hung as low as a prisoner who faced his punishment. The ring of the doorbell was usually answered by the warden of the house. The dad wasn’t happy that his little girl was going out with a pimple-faced punk. Conversation was tense, and the boy sighed with relief when his date comes to the rescue. The last thing he heard was the dad reminding the couple what time they must be home.

Conversation was stilted, but the songs by the Four Tops, Temptations, or The Rolling Stones from the car’s AM radio filled the silence. It’s a classic date. A movie downtown was followed by a trip to the Copper Kettle. Cheeseburgers, fries, and shakes satisfied always hungry teens, even though the young lady at first said she only wants a coke.

By the time the teens are finished eating, they were much more relaxed. They’d discovered some common interests, and perhaps they shared a mutual attraction. They had no hangouts to visit. Video games and DVRs didn’t exist, and even if they did, her dad wasn’t about to let a boy in his house. He wanted her home and lay awake waiting to hear her come through the door safe. Dad knew the boy might in some way bring up the idea of parking. For today’s young folks, that’s finding a subdivision road that is long and lonely. The couple drove there and made out for a while.

If the girl isn’t ready for something like that, the disappointed boy aims his car toward her home. When they arrived, he got out to open the door and walk his date to the door. The neighborhood was quiet, and most folks had turned in for the night. No outside lights with sensors broke through the night. Only a single light on the front porch shone. The couple talked about having had a good time, and the boy struggled with the decision to kiss her.

I remember that kind of night in 1974. Amy was my date, and I was a nervous wreck the entire evening. At the end, we stood at the door, and I took the chance to kiss her. It was the best decision I ever made in my life. I still remember every detail of the moment with not one bit of high-tech equipment to in some way to record it, just a single porch bulb to light the scene.

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