37 Windows ~ home & family matters

Sifting through blog posts working backwards I found this. Family memories shift and time changes but the love can never be deleted and a home not a house never erased.


37 Windows by Jacqueline Cioffa

My parent’s house has 37 windows and countless memories. It’s the home my Mom grew up in. I know every nook and cranny; I’ve heard all her childhood tales. It’s the 37 windows that her father, an Irishman bought with a small sum and a dream. He’d plant a garden and fix her walls and cure this house and make it his own. He’d have babies that would grow into gentlemen and scholars. He’d live a rich life filled with triumphs and racked with disappointment. It’s the 37 windows that would beckon him and his wife to sleep one night after a life well lived. 37 windows would sweetly and softly carry them expertly back home.

37 windows watched over me as a child. Free and safe to run wild in the streets screaming and laughing out loud. My mom would call out every night at suppertime. We’d sit around the table, talking and giggling about nothing and everything. My grandfather was still there, feeding us food and wisdom straight from his garden. There was conversation and laughter and food enough for everyone. There would be cousins and friends who’d show up and stay in that house until they were independent and strong. Her 37 windows patiently nurtured them, sending them off once they were brave enough to leave home.

37 windows open faithfully each spring and hunker down in wintertime. 37 windows whispered to me as a teen, “Go, be brave and immerse yourself. Be kind and confident, behave like a solid lady who can reap and sow her own garden.“

37 windows welcomed me after a messy divorce and an abusive husband. She was happy to give me shelter and open her doors. 37 windows raised her arms and said, “Welcome home, little girl. You’ll be alright, time to heal your heart.” My body shook, my heart closed tight by each figurative and literal bruise, every new disappointment. Then, something magical happened over time, the birth of new babies and summers and barbecues and a puppy and a pool that looked brand new, but had thirty years healed me. I became whole again. I had forgotten for a second the power of 37 windows and where I came from. Sometimes, it takes the eyes of others to see who you are, the stuff you are made of.

Family has always been all around me. I guess I’m lucky like that. I tried to leave, venture out on my own. Move away. Continents and ocean lengths away, it was never quite far enough. In my mind and my heart, they came with me. No matter the color or style of the glass, the endless other windows that have housed me have never felt quite like home. Even with the spirits of the people I have loved housed inside me, I am never without the power of family and a healing home.

All the Buddha’s, the crosses, the picture frames, the Zen-like qualities I add to each new space I live in, there is still a missing ingredient. I lost my mind a few years back and once again my childhood home and her 37 windows beckoned me. My bed and the smell of talc, the clean summer-breeze smell of the sheets brought me familiar comfort. I felt safe, if not whole. The way the sheer curtain rose and fell in the breeze at night eased my heavy load. She promised me I’d find my way out of the dark. It was simple, I was home.

I never gave it much thought. I took for granted that house would be there. My Dad died 352 days ago. All that’s left now of 37 windows is my Mom and my infrequent visits.

Maybe she’ll sell it and move to a smaller, more manageable home. That would be ok, I think. I always thought 37 windows housed me. Her walls so deeply embedded; I never understood I actually housed her. I hold all her memories, her secrets and laughter and dance and death and songs. 37 windows hold my past and my present, but I house all the people I hold precious and dear and call home.

Originally Published Sept. 2013 madswirl.com


Waiting on Oprah: Never Quit Your Dreams


Waiting on Oprah

I close my eyes and can almost see the perfect fairytale life I envisioned in my wildest dreams.

Dear Fantasy (Oprah), “I feel that I am a very fortunate person …”

I was fifteen. Fifteen, gawky, wickedly uncomfortable in my so called ‘model frame.’ Somehow fifteen was the perfect age to concoct wild fantasy adventures and the fastest way out of a stifled, small town. There was a kaleidoscope world waiting for me, exclusively.

Strangers, intoxicating places and new faces I ached to see.

I guess Oprah never received the letter or maybe it got shoved to the bottom pile. There were one billion other worthy dreamers, perhaps more worthy than me. Maybe it got filed away, who’s to say?

I barreled ahead out on my own and concocted the fantastical dream anyway.

I had my picture taken, a lot, wearing expensive, sequined designer gowns. I lived in far away lands. Swam naked in cerulean silk seas with infinite sparkling black diamond sandy beaches. I stood atop glaciers touching the clouds where the landscape was breathtaking white, and the earthly humans invisible below. It was lonely and cold, and I felt nothing but numbness. Decades and decades past, I was stuck bone cold.

I could no longer picture my paralyzed, frozen feet on solid ground. Be mindful, careful, and specific before dreaming.

I woke up. No longer a child, no longer a pretty pawn, no longer me, no longer an identity, just a jumble of misfiring neurons.

I had freedom, for a time. Airplanes, buses, pre-packed duffle bags ready, lavender mister, passport, baby pillow became the two ton heavy, overweight baggage. I could not lighten the load no matter how much stuff I discarded. The heavy barred down on my brain, burrowing deep under my skin.

Change is so excruciatingly difficult when you’re living the dream.

Oprah never told me dreams can shift, that there can be more than just the one.

Or maybe, I wasn’t listening too busy running scared. Maybe I had to live through the dream to get to the here and now. Maybe I grew up, a little. Maybe the dream plain wore out.

Shivering, dizzy from submersing my head in the clouds surrounded by foreign tongues I did not understand, the physical me grew bored and misplaced. I dined on spicy and sweet, savoring cuisines that were taste bud delicious yet soured the stomach.

I was grinding, squirming, picking, pinching awkward, drowning inside the fifteen-year-old expired notion of bliss. I think when one is asking for a dream, one must be specific.

I’m sure being kicked to the curb no longer the prettiest, youngest, skinniest ‘photo op’ of the day did nothing for my already damaged low self-esteem and defunct, busted aspirations.

My life has been filled with love. Looking back and forward, my life has been filled with love.

That must be the first thing I cling to while reminiscing. My life has been filled with heart swelling, shattering, terrifying, emotional, easy breezy, destructive, goose-bump alive love.

The heart is a muscle it cannot possibly feel yet it does. Bizarre but so blazing sun, crescent moon, silly stars, perpetual movement sea elements comforting.

I am loved; even on the days I forget how to love myself.

It has not been easy, my middle, it’s been split open, fractured; please God let me end the crucifying. That, and all that mess that is my life are for a different tale. Perhaps when we have a little more time.

I’m back home now. I’m not fifteen anymore. My dreams are simpler, quieter, not half the screaming loud as before. Home, that’s what I’d been missing all along. Not the physical dwelling perhaps, although that helps joggle the mind.

Sensory memory.

The giddy anticipation of my mother’s White Shoulder’s perfume, her lips brushing against my forehead, the charms on her bracelet jingling and dancing on her wrist. Giddy elation alive.

“Go to sleep, sweet child of mine.”

I’d pretend sleep, twisting and squirming awaiting her return. Back from a well deserved evening out way past midnight to stroke my hair in the dark. I was sugary five not smart mouth saccharine EMO fifteen, not biting sarcastic know it all twenty, not disillusioned complacent crazed thirty, not even bitter shattered fragmented forty.

I was five.

I was living the dream.

Dear Oprah, “it’s okay.”

I think I’d like to give this living thing a shot, keep the next dream nestled close.

Readily accessible in my front not back pocket.

Dreams change.

And me, I am transitioning.

I’m not waiting on Oprah, not this time.

This dream is waiting on me.