This column was inspired by a book by Jim Giblin called Let There Be Light. I met Jim years ago at a conference at Chautauqua Institution. He signed my copy of the book then I promptly put it away. It was years before I read the whole thing. The book format allowed him to use many photos as illustrations.
Jim wrote about real things. That is what I do, but I write for adults rather than children. After looking through this book once again I was inspired to reflect on the windows in my life.
First, I looked through the windows of a small city dweller. I lived in town and accepted that as a way of life. The windows in my grandparents' home were the double hung kind with cords to hold them in place. I looked out my bedroom window at the street below where my friends and I played a multitude of games. My favorite windows in that house were in the front porch. Before my time my grandfather chose to enclose the porch so that it was comfortable for sitting longer. We had a metal swing with padded cushions plus many chairs. We sat out there to read the paper each day. I played out there to be away from the eyes and ears of my grandmother. I was not doing anything bad, just needed to be alone to pretend.
The school I attended was fairly new so it had tip out windows. That was the same type of window that graced the classrooms that I taught in when I moved to the country. The high school my granddaughter attends still has these same kind of windows. We could open them but they did not keep the bugs out since there were no screens.
In my mobile home I had windows that tipped out. I hated them because they always caught the bushes that were growing beneath them. Once I locked the keys inside the trailer and it was next to impossible to get them out. My stepfather brought a strong magnet that he had and we disabled the kitchen fan to put it through to grab the keys.
Once we moved to Hickory Heights I had windows that did not open. They were double hung windows, but most of them were painted shut. The ones that did open were in really bad shape. I had to put my hand on the outside of the window when I tried to wash the inside of the window because they were all loose.
It was pure joy when we replaced the windows. Finally I had windows that had screens and could be opened and closed conveniently. I could even pull them in to wash them. It enhanced the view as well since the windows could actually be washed.
My pride and joy is the bay window we put in the kitchen. That is my window to the world. I watch the wildlife that inhabits my yard and passes through it. The birds are a constant source of entertainment. I watch them build their nests, hatch out their young, and teach them to fly. I watch the deer that roam through the yard making a meal of the grass in the lawn.
I know they build buildings without windows these days, but I cannot imagine having to work in such a building. What would it be like to never look outside?
The country offers the opportunity to many more things than I saw in the city. In the city the homes were separated by a driveway. We could see into the neighbors' windows. Now, I see nature at work and at play.
The windows of my life are only vivid because I use my eyes to observe. Vision is one of our most precious senses. It allows us to see what is going on around us affording us many opportunities to learn.
As a child I learned from my mother and grandparents. Their knowledge of the world helped develop mine. My grandfather loved growing things. He faithfully planted a small garden each year. I learned how to plant, how to weed, and how to harvest. I loved the fresh things from the garden.
My grandmother taught me to cook and bake. Mostly I observed, but I was allowed to help with the preparations. I learned to peel potatoes and apples not taking much flesh with the skin. I learned how to roast meat using the oven. It is not hard to fix a roast of pork or beef. You just put it into the oven and let it bake.
My mother taught me values. She was generous to a fault. She would rather give than receive. She took so much pride picking out gifts to give. One year she helped me pick out a gift for a little girl who had just moved to the community from Germany. Our church sponsored these people. I picked out a doll that I was allowed to deliver to that little girl. She never forgot that little act of kindness.
As I moved on to my life in the country I learned from my husband and my in-laws about country ways. People were always welcome to visit. No one left without having a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. I became adept at creating something out of nothing.
The windows of my life have been filled with images that last a lifetime. I cannot say thank you enough times to those who broadened my powers of observation.
As we swing into the Advent season think about the windows in your life literally and figuratively. What are you doing for future generations? Christmas is all about tradition and making memories. Instead of being stressed this season focus on the scenes that play out in your life and make them meaningful.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org