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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


Published in BLOG POETRY & PROSE


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