"The Social Network of the South"
One of my favorite Uncle Tupelo songs has a verse that goes:
“Down here where we're at
Everybody is equally poor
Down here, we don’t care
We don't care what happens
Outside the screen door”
Yep. That about sums it up.
In recent decades, the screen door may have fallen out of favor in the South, seeing as folks prefer not to spend precious dollars air conditioning the front yard. But back in the day, who could swelter through summer without one?
Before some ingenious soul invented this handy contraption, it was nigh impossible to catch a breeze without inadvertently welcoming insects, stray dogs, or the occasional hobo. Sure, one could open a window or twelve, but the screen door let in a whole door-sized amount of fresh air. Not to mention that it enabled mama to keep an eye on/holler at the young uns without having to get up. Which was a blessing during those months from May to September when it generally gets too hot to move. (Note: Children under the age of 10 seem immune to this condition. Or at least that’s what folks tell themselves when they can’t bear the thought of kids underfoot.)
I spent my first 24 summers in Mississippi, each one more sticky-hot than the last. Except for that terrible year when Dad eschewed air conditioning in favor of the cost-effective attic fan, which created air flow on par with a convection oven. I have never been more miserable. Ok, maybe when camping.
Still, there’s something about hearing the wooden slap of a screen door that makes one nostalgic. Perhaps because it sounds the alarm that someone you love is home or better--that someone you’ve grown weary of has finally mustered up the good sense to leave.
Here in Seattle, where houses almost always lack air conditioning and sometimes feature non-functional windows, screen doors have become almost as popular as composting or keeping backyard chickens. In my former abode, my roommate Tricia managed to talk our landlord into installing one. If I recall correctly, this modern metal-framed model featured self-closing hinges and a lock that featured neither hook nor eye. Fancy! There was even an adjustable window for regulating the desired breeze level. Which made the perfect location for my “Beware Pick Pockets and Loose Women” sign. Until our landlord happened by and took offense at the notion that one might mistake his property as a house of ill repute. Oh well...
Do you have a screen door or fond memories of one from days gone by? Please do tell!
Find more of my posts on all manner of Dixie delicacies and doo dads at Stuff Southern People Like.