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Click the remote to the dooryard channel

With a cup of coffee in one hand and TV remote in the other, I typically begin my day with a daily update on the coronavirus.

After listening to our president share his expertise on the virus and the Center for Disease Control give a totally different account of the virus, I feel confident enough in my choice of whose advice I will take, so I change the channel.

Looking for something lighter in content, I chose the Hallmark Movie Channel. Realizing I have seen every Hallmark movie at least three times, I continue channel surfing, which leads me to the Travel Channel and a documentary on Maine and the common practice of dooryard visits. According to the dictionary, “dooryard” has been around since the 18th century and described as a yard in front of the front or back door of a house. My curiosity piqued, I called my friend Bonny, who grew up in a farming community on the Canadian/Maine border and was familiar with dooryard visits — a short visit by friends and neighbors that usually took place on the family’s front porch.

Loving the idea of dooryard visits, I started thinking of years past when people enjoyed interacting with each other and/or their community on a regular basis until people felt a need to build fences around their yards. The fences started out with a low, picket fence with a gate (social distancing in its earliest form). Eventually, as people felt they wanted more privacy and less interaction with people, dooryard visits dwindled, and taller fences were built. First 5-foot-tall fences, then 6-foot-tall fences that, if you were tall enough, you could still visit with your neighbor over the fence. But that too would change. A lattice top would soon be added to the fence preventing any communication with your neighbors.

With the invention of the garage door opener, dooryard visits would become impossible as homeowners would push the opener button halfway down the street from their homes so they could pull right into the garage and wouldn’t have to talk to anybody. With today’s technology, if a “rogue dooryarder,” hoping for a short visit, is successful in breaching all barriers to the front porch and ringing the doorbell, a camera is activated revealing their identity, allowing the homeowner to decide if they even want a visitor.

Being quarantined has been a blessing to some people. It has made them realize how much their friends and neighbors really mean to them. They are “rediscovering their front yards, and books are being written about the importance of human interaction and touch. Countless YouTube videos are shown everyday of people in their front yards or on their front porches reconnecting with their neighborhood; doing random acts of kindness, and helping elderly people that might need assistance. It has taken us three centuries and a pandemic to come full circle by bringing back the dooryard visits.

So, next time you’ve had enough of coronavirus, politics and reruns of feel-good movies, don’t just “change the channel.” Push “off” on the remote, go outside to your front porch or driveway and enjoy a dooryard visit with your friends and neighbors. Human connection will lift your spirits every time!

Chris Pearson lives in Medford.

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