Thursday, October 18, 2007

let's go peek in the windows*

Even though Rufus and I hurry out every night as soon as I clean up after dinner, it is inexorably darker each night than the one before. We usually leave the house around 7:00 and are back before 7:30. Of course I know by December it will be quite dark out at that time, but hopefully we will be used to it by then. I am trying to memorize where all the uneven places in the sidewalk are now so that I don't trip, as our neighborhood is surprisingly poorly-lit. People don't walk much, I guess, particularly after dark.

One of the things I love about being out and about in a neighborhood at that time of day is that I can peek in the lighted windows of the houses as we walk by them. I have always been fascinated by that magical time late in the day after people turn the lights on in their houses but before they pull the drapes. The small town where I grew up had a well-known gay man who, surprisingly, was well-liked by the community. If I walked by his house in the early evening, I would always see him and his partner seated at a table by the front window, having dinner together. They were the picture of normalcy, and I learned something from that even at an early age.

I also learned a lot about how to decorate a home from observing how other people had decorated theirs. There was no attempt at an attractive decor in the house where I grew up, and as a child I was fascinated by the tableaux I saw through lighted windows as we walked downtown in the evening or as I accompanied my dad on a walk to the neighborhood carry-out for a six-pack. I particularly loved to see a small lit lamp on a table in front of a window or an overstuffed chair with a gooseneck lamp for reading right next to it. I loved the striped wallpaper in dining rooms and the cheery curtains framing bright kitchen windows - all the things we never had when I was growing up. I wonder if children from happy families peer so yearningly at other people's lives.

I still love to peek in at prints over mantelpieces and dimly-lit stairways leading up into darkness, but I also enjoy turning up our own driveway and seeing a comfortable-looking room bright with color and full of books and pottery and prints on the walls, and lit by a lamp in the front window. I don't have to keep walking past this home. It's mine.

*This may be such an inside reference that no one gets it anymore but me. I don't know if that's sad or just pathetic.


Julie said...

i can't help you on that quote, unfortunately, but i do love to check out people's houses when i'm walking the dog! i figure if they're going to leave their shades open when it's clearly dark out, then they really ought to expect people to be looking in their windows.

even though i had a perfectly happy childhood, i still enjoyed peeking in on other peoples' lives, to see the space where their tableaux played out and how they chose to decorate them. it's not surprising, maybe, but when it's dark and cold out, any house with lights on and some furnishings up looks cozy and happy--even if during the day you'd think the decor was not to your taste or even a little shabby.

every season of dog-walking brings new little things--some bad (roots and cracks to trip on), and some good (glowing windows to peer in). i'm glad you and rufus are keeping up your walks to experience the seasons more!

anne mancine said...

I think perhaps that quote is a topic for another day, as it is an amusing story.

I know you don't enjoy seeing plays all that much, Jules, but isn't looking in a brightly-lit window like looking at the stage set right after the curtain opens, but before the characters come out? Anything could happen.

Julie said...

yeah, but it's real! that's the part that i like. they aren't on stage, they're really happening. no one's carefully and artificially crafted everything i get to watch. maybe i don't like plays because i liked watching through windows first.

i would say too that as a kid, those lit, warm, cozy houses seemed like oases in the dark night--not just interesting (though they were surely that), but sort of reassuring that all these lives were going on, in spite of the dark and cold and everything else.