Open Window

“I wasn’t supposed to open the window, she told me… so I didn’t…”

I see the old lady hasn’t lost the ability to intimidate people, especially her daughter.

“If I absolutely had to have fresh air in my bedroom, she said, I was to open the bathroom window and leave the doors open.”

She was the reigning matriarch and no one was going to contradict any of her nonsense.

“Was the window broken or what? Did it not open?” I ventured curiously, not really understanding what and why was going on.

“I don’t know, I didn’t even try… not after that tirade. She was ridiculous, how she can live that way, I will never understand. Can you believe it? The kitchen and bathroom windows are the only ones she opens anymore. The strong musty air in all the rooms, especially in the spare bedroom, is hellish, it suffocates you. At least she had to keep the kitchen window open all the time, with my smoking,” and she sneers with satisfaction, making me laugh with her.

She has her own passive-aggressive ways, just like her mother.

She continues telling me how the recent years have changed her mother’s habits, and I listen, only slightly surprised… not as surprised as I should be… and for a second, I wonder why I am not shocked. I look at her carefully.. She’s no longer young, and the time has morphed her features in a manner which reminds me of her mother. I know she knows it. I know she hates it. People age, I tell myself. That must be it.

Something clicks weeks later, for no particular reason. I know why I wasn’t surprised… years and years ago, the old lady’s own mother was behaving the same way. I remember the old house and the foul smell, the windows she had nailed shut to make sure no one could open them, the thick dust and the general untidiness of the place. The daughter was then as outraged and disgusted as the daughter’s daughter was now. I remember walking out of that house as soon as I could find an excuse to be in the front yard, in the warm sun and fresh air. I knew she hadn’t always been that way. Just like her daughter these days, she used to care about her home. I also know that health or financial issues are not the cause of such indifference, in any of those cases. Time ruins people, in so many ways… Will the daughter’s daughter follow on the same path?

Are our parents windows to our own future? That’s a terrifying thought for many of us. So the mere possibility gets pushed aside, buried deep in a dark corner of our mind. “You have no idea what it feels like to wake up every morning, look in the mirror and see the face of the man who almost destroyed you, and then still find a way to want to wake up all the mornings to come,” a friend once told me many years ago. He looked a lot like his father, and staring that truth in the face every morning was what constantly reminded him to do better, to try harder and be the man his father never wanted to be.

That sort of courage can often elude us. We come across all sorts of windows… windows into people’s souls, windows into our own life… real windows, metaphorical ones… Actual windows always catch my eye, they intrigue me and I find myself wanting to look in. I don’t, of course, I respect others’ privacy, but hey, wouldn’t it be fun if we could let curiosity take control?

Those metaphorical windows are a different story. I try to open them widely and brave the scenery outside, learn what’s out there, so I could protect myself or at least do my best to avoid it (after all, I don’t want to become my mother either). I also try to keep them shut when that’s what needs to be done (not everything and everyone should be let in).

Clearly, windows – symbolic or not – are fascinating for many of us. We all have our reasons, I’m sure. Why wouldn’t they be? So many of them are so interesting, so fun, life changing even, depending on which side we may be…

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