Monday, April 23, 2007

Open Windows

It's hot today.

Despite a good breeze and overcast skies, it's hot. I keep looking longingly at the thermostat, knowing that if I turn on the central air in April -- April! -- my husband will be very disapproving. But I don't like being hot. It changes my personality from one that is generally cheerful to one that is morose and grumpy. Sweat is unseemly. I find harmony with the statement of Orson Welles, who, when told by a reporter that his bride, Rita Hayworth, was sweating, replied with all the biting hauteur one would expect from a cinematic genius, "Horses sweat. Ladies perspire. Miss Hayworth glows."

Orson, I understand completely. Only I don't want to do any of the three. I want to feel cool and pampered, sitting in the lovely, peaceful afternoon shade of the foyer, reading my book and drinking iced green tea. I don't mind sweating if I'm at the swimming pool because if I get too hot, I simply grab my trusty float that the girls named the Blue Burrito and go in for a cooling dip.

So we have the windows open. When it isn't hot, I love the open windows. We have lived here for two years, but I am still in awe of our windows, which are not only wide, but also tall; eight feet tall in our ten foot ceiling rooms. The noise of the downtown traffic whisking by is very soothing. Children ride by on bicycles; mothers walk by pushing strollers. The lawyers whose law firms reside in grand mansions walk back and forth from city court, swinging their brief cases, their suit jackets thrown over a shoulder. Of course, we can see all this when the windows are closed, but it feels so much more participatory in the life of the neighborhood when the windows are open.

We can also hear the church bells down the street chiming out the hours. All the windows in our house are original except for the one in the kitchen and even after all these years, they are still so well-fitted that the bells are completely drowned out, as are the sweet songs of the birds that live in the trees that line the streets. Matins, Prime, Laud,'s all lost to us with the windows closed.

We used to have a neighbor, Nancy, who lived in the first floor flat of the Craftsman apartment building across our narrow driveway (leaded glass windows and heart-of-pine floors that have been restored and buffed to a glossy sheen), who favored the music of Carly Simon, which I could hear as I stood before my open kitchen window, loading the dishwasher.

"You're so vain," I'd sing along. "You prob'ly think this song is about you."

Unfortunately, when the windows are open so that we can hear things outside, people can also hear us. I often wonder uneasily what the neighbors think when Aisling, as tempestuous as Beethoven but without the crazy hair, sits down and pounds out Für Elise with much dramatic interpretation, her hands leaping up from the keys like frogs from lily pads, her small nose practically touching middle C. Whatever Elise this piece was für, she must be somewhere covering her ears with her hands and flinching a little bit.

I also wonder what people think when they stroll by to go to the little theater that is two doors down from our house, headed toward an evening of culture and refined entertainment, and hear the girls squabbling in their room, right next to the window.

"I didn't put it there. You put it there."

"I didn't either put it there. You put it there and I saw you put it there and you put it there yesterday and you told me you'd pick it up but you never did!"

"I never did any such thing. I always pick things up when I say I'm going to pick them up, unlike some people I could name who are so lazy and spoiled!"

"I'm not spoiled. You're spoiled!"

"You're spoiled so bad, you don't even know you're spoiled, like a big old potato!"

At this point, the passerby may well be entertained by me as I stick my head around the newel post of the stairway and attempt to make myself heard in a genteel fashion, calling, "Girls! Girls, please stop that bickering!"

There is no response, but a further vehement tirade surges down the stairs like a flow of lava.

"GI-I-I-I-IRRRRLLLLLSSSSSSS," I shriek like a banshee, "shuuuuuuuuuuutttttt uuuuuppppppppppp!!!!!"

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