For the first few years of my life, my family lived in a mobile home. Runny Meade Estates the park was called. I have a few polished memories from that time.
Like that it didn’t have central air - we only had a window unit in my parents’ bedroom - and it would get so hot in the kitchen when the oven was on that we had to hang a blanket over the doorway so the heat didn’t escape to the rest of the rooms. And that my dad used to practice his bowling approach down the hallway. And that I had a pet lightning bug named Kimberly that I kept in a styrofoam cup. And that we had birthday cake out of disposable cookware.
One other thing I remember from that time is that I shared a room with my big sister so that at night when I was scared, I could stick my hand through the slats of my headboard and ask her to hold my hand. “Sissy” I called her, as in, “Sissy, will you hold my hand?”
When I was four, we moved to a house. A big house, I remember thinking. A fancy house with a foyer and a sunken living room and a study (to us, the office) and a dining room that we left empty so it ended up being a great place to have a dance party and to hold our Christmas tree and presents. It had an eat-in kitchen with a sliding glass door to a large backyard that was only partially fenced and if you went through the gate at the back you entered the yard of the Wynkoop’s behind us who had daughters I could play with.
It meant a whole new world for me this big new house, a world that now also included my sister having her own room; a separate room. And although it was right next to mine, it just wasn’t the same. My hand didn’t reach that far.
In my new room, there would be a crib in one corner where my little brother would sleep. There was also my table and chairs - orange plastic seats with metal frames - that was a hand-me-down set from my sister and my record player with the rainbow on the inside cover where I listened to my two favorite Christmas albums - one Disney, the other Sesame Street.
Also in my new room, in our new fancy house, there was a window. This window - at street level - faced the front of the house out into the neighborhood and out into the very large, very as yet unknown rest of the world.
I used to be terrified to turn towards it.
I would lie in bed at night with my back to it; the covers all bunched up behind my head so I couldn’t be seen. The logic went, I guess, that if I couldn’t see it and it couldn’t see me, then whatever “it” might be could be ignored. Or better yet, maybe it wasn’t really there at all.
But the more I didn’t look at that window, the larger it loomed. The scarier it became. And I often wonder now, what if I’d had the courage to turn around and face it?
Would I have seen nothing? Just the darkness of night and nothing else? Maybe I would have seen the yard out front and the street beyond. Maybe I could have relaxed in knowing that there was nothing at all through that window to be afraid of.
Or perhaps I would have realized that the shadow moving on my wall or the weird noise I heard was caused by the wind through the tree just outside, maybe causing the branches to sway or to scrape the window. Or I might have seen some nocturnal animal sniffing about, just minding its own business and meaning me no harm.
Maybe I would have seen something real to fear; something like a person who shouldn’t be there looking back. I would have been able to scream! I would have been able to raise the alarm; wake everyone up!
Whatever the case, with practice, I might have come to understand that just turning away from the window isn’t enough to make that unknown rest of the world go away and that turning towards it actually wasn’t that bad at all.
But that’s the key, right?
For some of us (a lot of us?) turning to face the window is the hardest thing to do. For some of us, we may not even know that we need to turn; we may not even know the window is there! We may not even realize that we’re holding fear let alone that we can let it go.
It takes a lot of courage to turn. To stand in front of the window and watch the sometimes scary nighttime world happening in front of you. But if we can do it, what could we see? What could we now be a part of that we’ve been missing out on because we were afraid to look?
It's true that it may not be much of anything at all. But then again, maybe it is something - something really big or even just something small but important - and it all rests on that first difficult, but critical step that if we don't take we'll never know. That's the fun of it, I think.
So much possibility out that window!