“She opened her curtains, and looked out towards the bit of road that lay in view, with fields beyond outside the entrance-gates. On the road there was a man with a bundle on his back and a woman carrying her baby; in the field she could see figures moving – perhaps the shepherd with his dog. Far off in the bending sky was the pearly light; and she felt the largeness of the world and the manifold wakings of men to labor and endurance. She was a part of that involuntary, palpitating life, and could neither look out on it from her luxurious shelter as a mere spectator, nor hide her eyes in selfish complaining.” -George Elliot
My mother had just moved into a new senior housing apartment in NYC. It is what she could afford at the time. Being a very independent woman she decided she wanted to live on her own.
The small efficiency was located across the street from a hospital. She told me one day that when she looked out the window she’d see when they removed corpses wrapped inside body bags. The bodies would be put into funeral hearses through the back entrance of the hospital.
This was almost a daily happening. I asked her not to look out the window if it upset her and her response was, “Am I supposed live in the dark and with the curtains drawn all the time?” I felt so bad for her. She had waited a long time for this apartment. It was walking distance to department stores, her doctors and the local McDonald’s which she liked.
A few months passed and she finally gave in and asked me to help her look for another place to live. She had become depressed. We convinced her to come and live with us for a while until we could find her a better location.
One day, her blood pressure went up sky-high and she became very disoriented. This was the first time this had happened. She asked me about the window. I thought she was referring to the window in the apartment close to the hospital. I kept reassuring her that she was nowhere near that window. Little did I realize she was asking me about another window.
This window had brought her joy. It was the window that had a view of the street where we lived from my birth until I started kindergarten. That window’s views were of neighborhood children playing. It was through that window that called out to us. That window received a gentle knock from my dad when he got home from work every evening. It was the look out window in the summer. Our friends and neighbors would stop by to chat and bring my mom fresh-baked bread or other goodies. Our neighbors were so friendly and family oriented: we were always sharing food. This was the window that had the beautiful curtains she had made herself. We all took pictures in front of that window. It was the window that opened up to memories.
I realized my mom was simply remembering a time when she was truly happy. She recovered from that scary episode with her high blood pressure. It never happened again.
I went back to visit my old neighborhood about a year ago. It has changed quite a bit but the window is still the same. I do not think it has ever been renovated.
It’s funny what reminds us of these moments in our lives. I happened to come across the quote by George Elliot and suddenly all these thoughts streamed through my memory. My mother is no longer with us. I hope she has a good view from her window. I hope she sees us and that she knows how much we miss her.
My sister and I in front of the window my mother loved.