It was the Friday after Thanksgiving. It is referred to as "Black Friday" in the retail trade. Traditionally it is the day stores have covered their annual expenses for the year and begin to show a profit putting them "in the black". I was up at an absurd hour to get to work and open a store at an even more absurd hour. As I looked out of my kitchen window, coffee mug in hand, I realized that mine were among only a small handful lights shining in the numerous windows in the cityscape before me.
Windows, to those inside they let light in and allow them to see out. To those outside they can allow us to see in. The artist Edward Hopper used windows extensively in his work. The patrons of the cafe in "Nighthawks" are viewed through a window. A cash register and display risers can be seen through the windows of one of the shops in the background. In another of his works the scene he is conveying is shown through a window. You are on the inside looking out.
In Amsterdam we caught views of the residents through the windows of centuries old canal houses. The interior rooms of many of these venerable structures seemed to have been "vanilla boxed", clean white walls replacing the ornate, verging on fussy, decoration of restored rooms such as those shown in the city's Loon Museum. All we saw seemed to contain an abundance of books. Some contained a collection hung on the austere walls. I recall the mass of antlers displayed in one otherwise spare room. In Rome one sees painted wood beams inside ancient buildings. The windows of St. Mark's Square in Venice showcase massive crystal chandeliers. My husband caught on camera a tender, almost intimate moment. A father and son stood in their window watching the canal traffic pass by.
Along Chicago's Astor Street, home to some of the city's wealthiest residents, curtains are not drawn over the expansive windows of the late 19th century row homes allowing you to view the luxurious, antique filled rooms of the urban elite. During the Christmas holidays trees festooned with lights and dripping ornaments become points of pride shared with one's neighbors in homes both massive and modest. In my neighbor hood a grand piano dominates the window of one apartment. I imagine the love of music which resides there.
We once resided in a high rise which provided us with a cornucopia of private lives conducted in the high rise across the narrow street. I remain amused at the lack of modesty of the ample woman tidying up her dining room after a Seder dinner clad only in her bra and half slip. There was the beefy man, towel wrapped around his waist, drying his hair over his window sill radiator. On another occasion he restlessly paced back and forth while waiting for a date. There was the gay couple whose leopard print furniture was always covered with sheets to safeguard it from the fading effects of the sun. I began to suspect that the ornaments were hot glued to their artificial Christmas tree as they appeared to be placed in exactly the same spots year after year.
It was brought to my attention that as we can see these people they could also see us. A friend remarked that two friends he had in the building across the street referred to our aged pet as "the cat that doesn't move. She had a favorite spot where the sun streamed in the window creating a circle of warmth where she would lay for hours.
In Costa Rica we were caught looking out at guests arriving for a party at the hotel we were staying in. Three handsome young teenagers, dressed in their best, looked up from the plaza in front of the room where the party was being held, saw us in the window and gave us a thumbs up. We probably should have remembered to turn off the lights in our room.