Over the past two weeks I’ve been gazing out of the casement windows of my old family home.
From here I can see the uppermost branches of the deciduous tree that was planted half a century ago in the front garden. Beyond that, the park. Beyond that, the city skyline.
I have been looking through these panes of glass for almost six decades.
They form what the October 1930 Australian Home Beautiful called ‘an exceptionally spacious bay window to the main bedroom’.
My family moved into this rambling old house in the early 60s. My father – a young engineer with a growing family and a truckload of self belief – was offered vendor terms too good to be true. The owner was trying to avoid death duties and insisted Dad not pay a cent for the first year. Dad obliged. My mother, with four children and lower expectations, could never quite believe her luck. Still can’t.
She is pleased to have me there for the duration of the pandemic.
She can no longer climb the stairs but I take photos of my eyrie – rearranged as an office/bedroom to accommodate my new work-from-home arrangements – and the view beyond.
Although the tree takes up most of the view, to the right and left of it I can see what passes for daily life in these strange times. Early morning boot camps have gradually given way to one-on-one personal training. Impromptu circular gatherings of fold up chairs and their owners have been replaced by singles and couples on the move. Always on the move.
The weather has mostly been kind. If I open up the windows, there is nothing between me and the outside world. Balmy breezes and afternoon sunlight give my room an alfresco feeling that is welcome in this age of distancing. Occasionally the sound of children’s laughter drifts in, but this is less frequent now. Mostly it’s the crunching of sensible shoes on gravel.
There has been the occasional aberration.
Late last Saturday night, the sounds of carousing awoke me from the dreamless slumber of one who no longer has deadlines to meet. Armed with the torch on my phone, I marched across the road to the park and flashed the torchlight into the eyes of the group sprawled on the grass.
‘Can you kids keep it down?’ I said, fury at their recklessness overcoming my nervousness and the knowledge that I was wearing the flannelette pyjamas with the heart motif. ‘And there are way too many of you!’ I stumped back across the road. Safe in my treetop bedroom, I listened to the blessed silence coming through the open windows.
It occurred to me those windows have witnessed my transformation: from carefree little girl reeling up a bag filled by her sister with illicit lollies to avoid the cavity police lurking downstairs; to diffident teenager awaiting the arrival of her first boyfriend’s Datsun 120Y; to cranky old lady wandering around in public in her pyjamas, telling off the neighbourhood youth.
The feathery leaves outside my window are starting to turn yellow, heralding what will be one of the longest winters any of us have experienced. When we emerge from our enforced hibernation, the view through these windows will be as it has always been. If it’s springtime, new growth will be sprouting on the treetop branches. If it’s summer, the view of the park will be all but obscured by lush green feathers.
But the world outside these windows will be forever changed. And those lucky enough to still be around to greet it will have to grow and adapt to meet the challenges ahead.