Screened porch

We stayed this week in something like a bungalow. Three bedrooms, two set inside the roof without even the headroom dormers would afford. A single bath for the five of us. And the best part Victoria and I didn’t discover until the second day – a screened porch, just outside the kitchen window.


I’m not sure I lived the past this house suggested. Chincoteague Island’s dignified, modest homes just off the bay reminded me of Hilton Village, a World War I-era planned community that surrounds the Episcopal church we attended when I was a kid. My parents and I leapfrogged Hilton when I was not yet two, moving from a downriver apartment to Brandon Heights, an uptown development with bigger houses, where my siblings were born.


Everything was not a block from the tidal James – the apartment, the church, the house in Brandon Heights, and the house we moved to in Riverside even farther from downtown Newport News when I was six, the house my parents still live in today. It doesn’t take much to wade in again. The slam of a screen door, or the cry of a gull.



  1. Although born in Alexandria VA, I didn’t discover the Tidewater until I spent time as a lawyer at a client’s facility in Preston Maryland. The level land, the water reflecting the sky: a magical infinity. It was immediately clear to me why no one wanted to leave. Twenty years later, I still dream about those landscapes. In most, I’m walking at night down a water-level road to a smokehouse. So much for vegetarianism.

  2. Oh, yes. Some client gave my father (a lawyer, too) a Smithfield ham every Christmas. We’d put it on the porch and eat it all winter long. (By the way, I lived in Old Town Alexandria my first year out of law school. I didn’t want to leave that city, but the clerkship ended and I had to find a job.)

  3. Cold enough to keep ham all Winter? Note that although born (segregated wing of hospital) in Alexandria, our house was located in low-rent Arlington. My early years were spent rolling down hills into rose bushes, only to be rescued by the wife of a patent lawyer. Current Old Town looks v. nifty indeed: must have been a wrench to leave. I think often about that parallel, unlived life.

  4. Salty enough for a passage through the doldrums! Your Arlington patent lawyer’s wife wouldn’t have been a Smith, would she? I had a relative back then in Arlington by that name. When I moved to Alexandria, I had lunch with him even though I was unqualified and he wasn’t hiring.

  5. Julie, that’s something we have in common: I too was born in the Alexandia hospital.

    Peter, believe it or not I have yet to see a single screen door or window screen in Europe. They don’t believe in them. It’s crazy.

    Great post.

  6. Dave, thank you for the link and for spreading the good word to Europe. I could see how the thought of screens might make you a tad homesick. It’s interesting to think of both Julie and you as Virginians by birth. (Of course, where I’m from, Alexandria ceased being part of Virginia soon after D.C. eclipsed it.)

  7. The patent lawyer was not a native Virginian, I don’t believe. Given Dave’s surprising birth-place, that might have proved a coincidence too far. Amusing overlap. Dave Bonta: European screens quite obviously the next climate-change profit center.

    1. So that’s asbestos siding. I learned during my summers at a shipyard that if I don’t touch the stuff, I’ll probably be okay.

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