Wednesday, December 25, 2013

People Can See Right In

We live in an old Victorian in a mill town in western Maine.

A Queen Anne house is bound to be interesting. They're not symmetrical. Adam colonials, and the capes they replaced, mostly, are sober and staid and regular. Everyone knows where to trick-or-treat at a colonial. Houses should have a head, and eyes, and a mouth --in short, a face-- and in general, it shouldn't look like some blue broad Picasso painted. If you can't say something witty, try to be coherent, at least. Baby steps.

Victorian houses like mine have a face, still, but it's frozen in a kind of delighted smirk, or something. Everything makes sense, but it's pinwheeled and stretched and off-balanced a bit. It lends interest to a floor plan, and a facade. It's tougher to pull off than straight symmetry. Everyone tries to make asymmetrical houses now, and they're a mess, because you have to know the rules before you can bend them.

The main front room of the lower floor of our house has a bay in it, facing the street. There are three, big windows in a triptych, looking northwest, north, and northeast. The windows are big. The center one's five feet square. The ceilings on the lower floor are high, and so the top of the window is way up high, and the sills are pretty low. It's great to walk up to one of those windows and look out. It's not a porthole. Windows that face north-ish don't catch much direct sun, but the room is always bright because there's enough windows, facing every which way, to make it pleasant in there. In the late summer, the setting sun might overheat it as it makes its way behind the hills we have in abundance here, but there's a big porch across the front to shade it, and keep the rain off your head while you wait at our door. The porch is big enough for two rockers, and we sometimes sit out in the evenings and wave at our neighbors when they walk by. Everybody goes for walks here. The house is only about twenty feet from the road.

When my mother came to visit us here, and my wife's mother, and many other people, they all say the same thing to us. "People can see right in!"

Yes, yes they can. Like many Victorian houses, the rooms downstairs are enfilade; that is, they go one into another, with no circulation corridors outside them. You must pass through each one to get to another. Someone standing on the street can not only see right in to our living room, but straight through the dining room and the kitchen, too. Only the back wall of the house stops them from seeing the river in the background.

People can see right in is generally uttered with an undertone of panic. How can you possibly live like that? Why don't you mew yourself up in there, like a normal person?

Well, I've embraced not being normal for quite some time now. It costs dearly in some ways, but it has its sunny aspects. A normal person nowadays builds a bathroom with a bathtub in front of a picture window, but puts shutters, shades -- and then drapes, just in case -- on all the windows in their living room, and then hides their entire house behind a garage, just for good measure. Me, I figure my house has some public rooms, and some private, and I let sunshine and fresh air and neighborly eyes into my life in these semi-public places, and reserve some parts of my life for my own. What a weirdo I've become. If people could have seen right in last night, Christmas Eve, they would have seen my wife and I and my two sons dancing like fools in a circle in the living room while a Christmas song my sons wrote and recorded came right out of the radio. Oh, the shame of it. 

I write, too, and people can see right in.  I publish all this stuff here, and don't have any drapes on my monitor or anything. I live in a semi-public world, in a semi-public way. Most bloggers say next to nothing about themselves, really. They post snippets from newspapers they claim are biased against them, but read anyway, quoting people they say they detest, but spend most of their waking hours being fascinated with, and then say some inane, wordy version of,  What's up with that?, like a shortbus Voltaire. Me, I'm not even a blogger; I'm an essayist.  People can see right in.

It is a different sort of life to let people see right in. It has, in some ways, cost me a great deal to do so. But the vast majority of people who I've let see right in have rewarded me with their friendship, understanding, and support, and in such great measure, that I'm constantly amazed by it, and grateful for it. And I've noticed that most people that are afraid of people spying on them keep a Facebook page.

And so, in closing, I'd like to wish all my Interfriends and Webpassersby a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and hope that you all get what you need instead of what you want, because I want you to be happy, not contented.  Many, many thanks to everyone that looks in here, and supports my children's efforts, and ours, and buys my book, and my furniture, and sends us stuff to help us out.

I only have one question: What are you looking at?


Glynn said...

When I look in, I'm looking at good stuff.

Merry Christmas, Greg.

vanderleun said...

You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talking... you talking to me? Well I'm the only one here. Who do you think you're talking to? Oh yeah? OK.

John The River said...

Merry Christmas and thanks for great articles this year.

I envy your joy in this holiday, all my pleasure in it died with the passing of my wife. She brought the appreciation of Christmas to me when she entered my life and in leaving took it with her.

God Bless.

foxmarks said...

Merry Christmas.

Thank you for leaving your windows clear.

Casey Klahn said...

Essayist. I appreciate that to no end.

Glad for what I've seen this year. Many happy returns on the day, Sipp.

leelu said...

Contrary o your tip jar, you are always writing better. Merry Christmas to you, the missus, and the boys.

Sam L. said...

John The River, mine died 17 years and a week ago. All I can say is, it doesn't get better, but it does become less bad. Eventually, you're approaching being the way you were, but it's become that old war wound that twinges or aches unexpectedly, or just up and whacks your head.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, we would spend the night at grandpas farm in the country and there were NO coverings on the windows. I remember undressing and saying, "they can see in" and mother said, "theres nobody out there." She was right. After WWII most folks moved to town and out in the country was mostly empty

julie said...

It is a rare window, I think, that makes the lives of those who peer inside better for having taken a look.

Thanks for that, and again, Merry Christmas.

joated said...

Thanks for letting us share your world through this and other forums. I trust you and yours had a very Merry Christmas. May it be followed by a Happy and prosperous New Year.

Daphne said...

Merry Christmas, Greg!