Saturday, November 24, 2012

Looking In

Even when I was a child riding in the backseat of my father's car as he drove us somewhere at dusk, I tried to look in the windows of houses we passed if lamps had been turned on in the rooms. I wondered who lived there. Were they a happy family, how many children did they have, were there any boys or just daughters as in our family? I never outgrew my curiosity and still look in and wonder.


My favorite view looking in, though, has always been that of looking into my own house from outside at twilight time, through windows revealing softly lamp lit rooms. It is then that I see my home life from a different perspective. I know the people in my own house better than I do any other people in the world, naturally, and yet as I see them moving about they become elusive, but strangely much more real.


I remember when I was sixteen going outside at dusk on Thanksgiving Day. I put on my warm high school jacket over my best Sunday dress as it was not only cold but had snowed, a rare thing in Middle Tennessee. We get excited here if Jack Frost visits us for Thanksgiving. Snow on Thanksgiving Day, any amount, would make us think we'd died and gone to New England. Snow on that special night gave the occasion even more importance, and the centerpiece for our dining room table, my responsibility, had to be special too.


I clip sprays of bright red Nandina and holly and probably some evergreen gleanings as well since our father has planted many conifers in our yard. If it were June there would be many of Daddy's roses for the table, but this is November and dusk has fallen on the snow-brushed shrubbery around our house. I take my time. It is important.


Through the kitchen window I see Daddy, the head of our family. I love him but darn sure have a healthy respect for him too. This night though, in his dark wine-colored plaid Arrow shirt, my father seems almost vulnerable as he helps Mama with the last minute cooking for the most important meal of the year, Thanksgiving Day dinner. Why this perspective of seeing my father through the window makes him seem more human to me, possibly with worries I know nothing about, I do not know.


I look at Mama. She has not dressed up much. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a warm job even when there is snow on the ground outside where I stand. There is a small frown of concentration on her forehead, but the red plaid wallpapered ceiling over her head makes the kitchen look cozy and snug. I don't wonder if my mother is worried about something. She is just Mama, doing what mothers do on Thanksgiving Day.


My three younger sisters are there inside also. Deb, dark haired and vivacious at twelve is always willing to entertain three-year-old Jenn, the bouncing blonde late addition charmer in our family, keeping her out from under Mama's busy feet. Teresa, a Mia Farrow twin, even as young as ten, moves with the poise and posture of a young queen.


These are my little sisters. I argue with them, boss them around, take them as much for granted as I do our parents. Now, in the frosty evening with purple shadows falling all around me, with my hands full of the cool leaves and red berries of Nandina, my sisters too seem imbued with a majestic somber beauty that satisfies something deep within me. I shiver with the mystery of it all.


If this is not something you have experienced, go outside at dusk, be a voyeur in your own yard. Look into your rooms and see how attractive they are, how mysterious the people inside seem. See them as people separate from you, individuals. See your house as a stranger would see it, like a stage set.



You might come back inside a different person yourself.





13 comments:

  1. Beautifully written, as always, Dewena. I love nothing more than walking by houses lit by lamplight. I used to do that all the time when I lived in walking cities like Philadelphia and Boston. A leisurely walk, a peek into someone's home, nothing better.

    xo
    Claudia

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    1. Now a walking tour to peek in the windows of historic houses of Boston would be my cup of tea! Thank you so much for your nice comment. Love to Scout!

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  2. Absolutely beautifully written, and so true. As someone once said, "There's no place like home." Hugs ~ Mary

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    1. Thank you Mary, That's so sweet. Yes, home is that place we all want and are fortunate if we have it.

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  3. I agree with Mary and Claudia, just beautifully written! This could be the beginning of a novel! I'm left wondering what is on the minds of the parents.
    Wonderful post!

    I left a reply to your comment on my last blog. Yes, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving and the pies were great. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you so much. Sometimes you wonder if you're the only one feeling something and it's always a nice surprise to find out that it's shared by others. A novel? I haven't thought about one about my parents but I love to read and write about the time period of the 1940s through 1950s. And I'm glad your pies were great!

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  4. Beautiful memories. I like to peek into windos as well. Your story is just so wonderful.

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    1. Ah, another window-peeker! And thank you so much for your encouraging comments. They mean so much to me.

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  5. That was wonderful. Took me back in time to wonderful memories. Thank you so much for this post. I, too, can't resist looking in windows as I pass by.

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    1. Thank you, Janice. I'm so glad it took you back to your own memories. And I'm very glad there are so many of us window-peekers. Maybe it's more than just curiosity. Maybe there really is a desire in us to hope that home is a safe comforting place to most people, despite what is printed in the newspapers or on the news.

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  6. I love dusk. It is my favorite time of the day. I, too, often peer into windows when I run at this time of the day. Mostly I wonder if the people inside could possibly be as happy as I am! I love reading about your memories of your parents and sisters whom I adored growing up. Coming from the perspective of my childhood, I always thought your family was nearly perfect...

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    1. Hi dear cousin! There is something exciting about dusk, isn't there? The day is over but something wonderful can still happen as dusk falls. I'm grateful for your happiness with your life, which I imagine has so much to do with living a creative contributing life among your students and grandchildren. We did have a great bunch of girl cousins growing up. Wish we could sometimes arrange what Janice Faye always wanted, a cousin reunion. My parents always loved you, and we certainly weren't perfect or always blissfully happy but my sisters and I were blessed to have had the family we did, and the larger extended family. Grandma & Grandpa turned out a whole family of hardworking children. Enjoy your Sunday!

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  7. My dear Dewena,

    Your description of 'looking in' on one's own family members and space is so particular in perception and observation that I could not have said it differently - nor would I have wanted to! You have a unique talent for understanding and feeling the perspective of people to an acute degree! I guess, part of that stems from the fact that, deep down, we are all similar in some ways, and such sweet memories of beloved times and people are, in the end, universal. Thank you for 'looking in' on your loved ones, remembering their expressions, their movements and their happy times and sharing these special moments with us, and for the wisdom to say, 'Look out', and not take such precious people and situations for granted!

    Poppy

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