There is a certain view through my bedroom window that always makes me pause and peer. It’s the window whose pane I kicked to pieces in the midst of a childhood tantrum. It’s the window that still has the fuchsia, faux-velvet curtains hanging in front of it, with a butterfly on a wire that my mother was going to make a Madame Butterfly costume with, but never quite got there.
My dad was so mad at me when I broke that window. I remember it was the day before my mother’s birthday, because we were going to bake her a cake. What irked my dad most was that the window was original to the house. It had been in that frame since 1899. The two panes were so old that the view was distorted, the imperfections in the glass made the trees curve. I think about that window pane now, having survived over 100 years of long winters and trees and blusters. Then some little kid comes along and kicks it to shards. I’d have been pissed, too, if I were that window.
Growing up in my house, small stuff changed: which room was the “dining room,” which way the couch was oriented in the living room, how much the wallpaper was stripped off, how big the water stains were. But it was always the same bones. We redid the attic a few years ago, cleared out all the stuff my parents had collected over the years, insulated it and put in another bathroom. In my memory, the piles of things stretch up to the attic ceiling, the shadows dark and menacing, an unknown city. I remember sneaking upstairs and shivering as I pulled the long string for the one bulb dangling down to the bottom of the narrow steps. The attic is the only space that’s changed much since I was a kid. I spend very little time there, despite it being the nicest section of the house by far.
I still spend the majority of my time at home in my room. When I was young, we added built-ins and painted the walls a lilac purple, the floors a royal one. It’s a bit much. When I was 12, I got a loft bed. The desk went under it, and my bedside table became the top shelf of the bookcase. At night, my head was two feet from the ceiling. As I got older, that became annoying. I got a new bed. The first nights sleeping on my twin mattress on the floor, it was weird how far away the ceiling was.
I look out that once-broken window every time I wake up. On gray fall weekend mornings the barn is just visible from my bedside vantage point, the tree in the backyard blending in with those behind it, the apartment building diagonal from our house peeking out between branches. The view is strange to me. It’s beautiful, especially when it’s cloudy, but I don’t think most people would think that. It gives me the strangest feeling, like when a word is on the tip of your tongue. One half of the picture is still distorted by the old glass, the other’s in clear focus: buildings and trees I know so well, but will never be inside or climb.
I can’t help but think about the meaning of it all. It’s such a hard thing to put into words, because it will sound stupid and cliché any way I put it. But I think about math and the sun and Fibonacci numbers, and what would there be if there was nothing? Could there be nothing without someone there to say it was nothing? Where are we going? If the universe is always expanding, what are we expanding into?
And what will I do when I don’t wake up to this view every morning? Will I still think like this, be this person? I’m not often happy to see the start of a new day, but I’m always grateful to be home. What will life be like for me when the world outside my window isn’t the same half-distorted reality I’ve grown up with?