I miss the stoop we called our own at our previous apartment. It was there we got to know and enjoy the friendship of our neighbors. In just a few days upon moving into the studio apartment, it was on the stoop we first met our neighbors-soon-to-be-friends. Those small, crooked series of steps leading to our front door was where countless number of conversations took place, where we’d often enjoy a meal (or cook one), the spot where we’d let our cats enjoy some sunshine and fresh air, and where we’s welcome our friends into our home. What it lacked in size, our stoop made up for in welcoming utility as the outdoor ambassador of our life upstairs.
The popularity of the backyard, that division of “mine” and “yours” propagated during the postwar suburban boom, killed the stoop. The most simple of architectural features, the stoop gave every home (and older era apartments like ours) a welcoming front facade where guests could saunter up, while also giving its occupants a place where they could relaxingly spill out. I could only wish for a stoop revival, for when this architectural is around, it fosters neighbors to chat, affords owners an elevated view of their surroundings, and seems to pollinate the likelihood of “hellos” or simply a genteel nod from passing strangers. It’s the architectural equivalent of a smile and a hand wave, compared to the suspicious border of the backyard fence.
We’re so caught up now hiding away in our gated communities, behind closed doors, afraid of everything and anything unrecognizable, protecting our privacy like it’s more valuable than the joy of community. In the process we’ve lost something so vital…so traditionally American…yet something that could simply be revived by the humble feature of a few stairs and an overhang at our front doors. It’s interesting to think that the wane of just sitting around out front of our homes could have lent a strong hand to the demise of community in modern America.