A Place to Belong

Sadie Delany, left; Amy Hill Hearth, center; and Bessie Delany, at right, at the Delany Sisters' home, 1992.

Sadie Delany, left; Amy Hill Hearth, center; and Bessie Delany, at right, at the Delany Sisters’ home, 1992.

Many years ago, Sadie and Bessie Delany (who would become famous at age 100 and 102 as “the Delany Sisters”) moved from an apartment in the Harlem section of New York City to a still-rural section of the Bronx. The reason? They wanted a porch.

Actually they needed a porch, as they explained with some desperation to the builder. “Mister,” they told him, “we’re from North Carolina and we’ve been cooped up in apartments since the First World War. Now we’ve got this cottage out in the country, and where we’re from, a house ain’t a home unless it has got itself a porch!”

They did indeed get their porch. Years later, I knew this charming anecdote had to go into the book that I was writing with the sisters, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years (and indeed, you can find the story on page 174.) Having lived in South Carolina as a child, I understood the significance of a porch.  Like a fireplace Up North, a porch in the South represents home and family. It is a welcoming place to live, share, and gather.

We all need a place, or places, to belong in this world in order to thrive.  With the creation of the Internet and social media, we have the opportunity to expand our own little worlds into something new and quite wonderful: a virtual community of people we would never have gotten to know otherwise.

I often wonder what the Delany Sisters would have thought of the Internet and Cyberspace, and the answer comes to me straight from the Spirit World. I can almost hear their voices. They would say it is a good thing but only in moderation and only if you use it in a positive way. (They would be appalled, no doubt, at the snarky tone, cruel remarks, and vulgarity found all too frequently on the web and most social media. In fact, I suspect the Sisters would want to wash some people’s mouths out with soap, if they were to read the posts and comments on many sites!)

Fortunately, we do have options. Just as we turn off the radio and television, or boycott certain types of books and movies, we can be selective about where on the Internet we spend our time and with whom. That is why I said yes to this site, where I will be writing on alternate Wednesdays with Julie Cantrell, starting with this post.  As Sadie and Bessie used to say, “There are good people in the world. Your job is to find them.”

And I have.

See y’all on the porch!

Question of the day:  What is your favorite porch memory?

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Amy's new novel, Miss Dreamsville and the Lost Heiress of Collier County, will be published in Sept. 2015 by Atria/Simon & Schuster in New York. "Lost Heiress" is a sequel to Amy's first novel, Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society. Born in New England, Amy spent her childhood in Columbia, South Carolina. She began her career as a newspaper reporter in Florida, eventually moving to New York, where she wrote for The New York Times. In 1993, Amy published her first book, the New York Times bestseller turned Broadway play, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years. To Pre-order Amy's new novel, please visit SimonandSchuster.com or Amazon.com

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Comments

  1. says

    The Delaney sisters’ thoughts on life and living mirrored my gram’s. If I ever spoke in a displeasing manner she’d say, “Precious, you’re much too pretty inside to talk that ugly.” I still hear her voice when I’m tempted to spout off and speak my mind before I’ve had a chance to clean up my thinking. (Admittedly, sometimes that only happens after I go to Jesus for some help . . .I tend to be pretty opinionated.)

    So glad we’re on the same “porch” on the internet. I look forward to getting to know you, and the rest of the Belles.

  2. Julie Cantrell says

    Amy, we are all SO grateful to have you join our porch, and I look forward to you sharing more of the Delany Sister stories. Our porch is covered with ICE today, which is lovely but I’m filling my brain with scenes from someplace warm, sunny, and ice-free. Cheers! j

  3. Nicole Seitz says

    Amy,
    What a lovely post. If this is any indication of what you have to offer us on the porch, I am truly looking forward to getting to know you better. Blessings to you! Nicole

  4. Lisa Wingate says

    “As Sadie and Bessie used to say, “There are good people in the world. Your job is to find them.”

    There is such truth in this, Amy. Like the badly-behaved kids in a classroom, the badly-behaved people in the world often cause clatter and get the attention. The trick is to look beyond. As one of my Sunday school kids (on the opposite end of the age spectrum from the Delany sisters) said, “If you look on TV, you’d think the world is mostly bad, but if you go outside and look around, you see mostly people just doing the right thing everyday. If you look around, the world is mostly good.”

    I’ve never forgotten that wise observation.

    So glad you’re here with us on the porch, Amy!

  5. says

    Great Post, Amy! Growing up in Middle Tennessee, Lynchburg TN, I definitely have fond memories of the “front porch.” :) I look forward to your future posts and following this insightful blog.

  6. says

    I already knew I was going to love getting to know you here at SBV. This post just adds another layer of confirmation. Love this quote, “As Sadie and Bessie used to say, “There are good people in the world. Your job is to find them.” Thanks for sharing with us, today!

  7. says

    My favorite front porch memory happened when my family and I lived in a renovated slave quarters. We would sit on the front porch in the evenings and watch the stars come out. My parents thought living in such a small dwelling was hard on us, and in some ways it was, but those slave quarters memories are some of my favorites now.

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