In the midst of all the negativity we hear and read in the media today, I’d like to talk about doors and windows. Why doors and windows? Well, doors and windows are pretty cool. They are a part of our lives both literally and figuratively.
I can still remember the screen door at my grandma’s house. My sisters and I called her Grandma Red because she loved the color red. Everything in her house was red. Well, almost everything.
The wooden screen door in Grandma Red’s home was — yes, you guessed it — red. I loved the screen door. It was made of pine, the paint was cracked and chipped and it made a distinct creaking, and then a loud slam sound, when it was opened and shut suddenly. It didn’t have a hydraulic closure, merely a very long rusty return spring screwed to the top of the door and the door frame.
My sisters and I went in and out of the old screen door a lot. It was pretty noisy. Eventually, grandma got tired of the slamming noise and us kids going in and out of the door. So, in her exasperation, she would lock it from the inside with an old hook eye closure. It was pretty easy to open back up with my trusty pocket knife my grandpa gave me for whittling. The screen door didn’t quite fit in the frame anymore after the cold winters and hot dry summers in western Colorado, so I’d just slip the knife in between the cracks and the door was open again.
Much to my grandma’s chagrin.
My sisters and I called my other grandmother, my mother’s mother, Grandma Blue. She liked the color blue and thus had a lot of blue in her home. Plus, she wasn’t as fun as Grandma Red.
Perhaps that’s the real reason why we called her Grandma Blue. I never thought about that until now — but could be. Anyway, she did have an amazing picture window that looked out to the front yard of their 1920s era white farmhouse.
A large oak tree was just beyond the window and a white picket fence surrounded the front yard. The window probably wasn’t as big as I recall, but as a child it seemed enormous. I remember how I loved sitting in front of the window watching the cars and people pass by. The road was a county country road, so there were not a lot of people or vehicle traffic. But when people or vehicles were on the road, you could see them a long, long way off.
Homes were not very close together during those days, but people walked to town on those unpaved country roads to get groceries or to go to the local drug store and restaurant for a burger and a shake.
On Sundays, people would walk to church or take the family out for a Sunday drive. By the way, Sundays were always the days for the family drives. Why, you ask? Because everything was closed — grocery stores, restaurants — everything shut down on Sundays. We did, however, have one rebel restaurant that dared to open after church on Sunday morning, the “Tasty Freeze.” They had great twist cones, chocolate and vanilla ice cream swirled together. I can still remember the shape of the huge Tasty Freeze cones and the sweet cream taste. They were amazing.
Think for just a moment — what doors or windows do you remember as a child? I’ll bet you're thinking of those right now. Maybe you are thinking of a door at your grandparent’s house, a door to your own or shared bedroom or maybe the front door of your childhood home. Or maybe your thoughts went to a home or bedroom window. Did the window you remember have a crank, a handle or a slide? My point in talking about doors and windows is simply this: They are a part of lives and our memories in more ways than we ever realized.
Doors let us in large and small places and spaces. Doors can hide scary or spooky things. Doors let us out of places or lead us to safety. We use doors to talk about new things like, opening a door to a “new opportunity,” a “new life” or a “new situation.” We also use doors when we speak about closing a part of our lives, or permanently leaving a harmful or hurtful situation behind. Or the “knock, knock” jokes we all love.
Windows are used in our vernacular when we speak of opportunity, or time limits, as in “the window of opportunity is open” or “the window is now closing.” Doors and windows represent entrances, closures, opportunities, challenges, disappointments, losses and, sometimes, they hide the private aspects of who we are.
Doors and windows can make us reflective, cheerful, thoughtful and sometimes amazed. As when we look out the window and see ominous weather approaching. When we see the descending rain, the gentle falling snow, the joy of our children as they play in our backyards, or our dogs running back and forth, back and forth, for no real reason (dogs and the things they do for no real reason is another column, for another time).
I have gained a new appreciation for doors and windows as they are a part of my memories, both good and bad. They are a part of our culture, our vernacular, our architecture and our religion. They sometimes inspire awe as in the sheer beauty of a stained glass window in a church or cathedral. Or a beautifully decorated door during the holidays. They have been used to bring about change, to inspire and sometimes to reform. As when a small-town monk by the name of Martin Luther in 1517 nailed his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, thereby lighting the flame of Reformation that lead to the eventual split of the Catholic and protestant churches.
Windows have, sadly, meant something very, very different during COVID-19. Windows have been used for final glimpses and final goodbyes of our dear loved one’s as they struggle for every breathe. We have all seen the photos this last year of family members' hands pressed against both sides of a window from a hospital room or assisted living facility as tears drop from their lost, saddened faces.
As I write this, though, my heart is filled with gratitude for the opportunities, memories, beauty and for the sheer joy doors and windows have brought me. Maybe you too are reflecting on the doors and windows of your own memories.
It feels good to reflect , to remember, to dream, to recall, to contemplate and to anticipate better times ahead.
Richard Stride has been a practicing psychotherapist. He has worked in behavioral and forensic mental health for over 30 years as a counselor, clinical director and senior executive. He served eight years as a captain in the United States Army Reserve. He enjoys teaching, public speaking and prides himself on being a student of history. He is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.