Wednesday, February 5, 2014

REMEMBERING THE BROKEN WINDOW


On a day like today, I remember living on Meserole Street and that old house we called home. I think our home on South 5th Street had gone through another fire and this was close to our school. The second floor was a nice fit for our family, but the landlady was not ready to make it a warm place.  During the summer, music from across the street, danced into my bedroom. I fell asleep to old school R&B. Many times, I sang along, pretending I could outdo Donna Summer and Heatwave

On cold, snowy days like today, mom would take out a hundred warm blankets to cover us, creating a burrito taco with each one of us when she put us to bed. There was barely any heat in that house. The windows were not holding on to the wooden edges and if you stood by the window to look at the falling snow, you'd feel the wind seeping through the corners. I remember a time when it snowed like the snow days we have been having lately. One of the windows was really coming apart. My parents had attempted to fix it as much as they could. I remember the creative ways my mom worked to cover those cracks and separated spaces. I smile as I remember that newspaper, tape, and plastic were just some of the fancy materials used to improve the situation. I know my parents, not the landlord, finally made the improvements.


One year, we had a big snow storm. My brothers and I found that snow had actually pushed through one of the windows. Walking around in our many layers to keep warm, we jumped around like silly goats touching the tiny bits of cloud like coldness visiting us. We celebrated that snow inside the house as if Santa Claus had just appeared with a bag of gifts. Mom made hot chocolate, with crackers and cheese and you'd think we were part of The Polar Express story. Looking back I remember my parents doing their best to get the landlord to fix it and she wouldn't. It was winter and they had been looking for a new home for us and nothing had been found. I remember mom telling us, "Let's keep praying. We are going to have a new home, soon."


The snow entering through that broken window reminds me of a time when my family fought to live decently but the landlords just didn't seem to care. I'm always in awe when I remember how my parents went out of their way to protect us and make us happy.

One day, great news came and the landlord and her family moved out of the house. We celebrated with our new found freedom! Leaving my parents to watch over the house, we were able to go to the basement, raise the heat and the hot water. The windows had been repaired by my superhero parents and the apartment became a cozy den for hibernating.

Before long, God answered my mom's prayers, and we moved into a really nice apartment. I lived there until I got married. I've often told my kids about those windows, and took them to walk down Meserole Street and showed them that old house. Funny. Now everyone talks about living in this neighborhood like it's the greatest thing in the world. It was great when my family was here. The landlords just didn't care about the hard working, decent families living here. My parents always worked so hard to provide for us the best, but the landlords didn't seem to care.

 Most of the houses have all been sold, renovated, and given the place of honor in Williamsburg. They have brand new stoves, refrigerators, and yes, brand new windows. The siding is new so the cold never gets through the way it did when my brothers and I slept in those cold rooms. I look back and I smile. Yes we went through some cold nights, but those were good days, too.So many changes have taken place, forcing families out of those neighborhoods. They might have a story about a snowy day just like I do. I hope wherever they are that one day, we can meet and share stories about days when winter entered our homes through the broken windows and magically gave us indoor snow.

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