Since pride is a sin I am an unrepentant sinner when it comes to the pride I have for my working class heritage. It frames my existence and supports me in my journey through life. Long ago I learned the meaning behind “if you want anything in life, you must work for it”. Nothing is gifted to us. Success in my hometown was measured by our ability to adhere to strong moral values and by maintaining the family name. Success could not be measured by the large, new car parked outside the house, or the large flat screen TV in the living room. Therefore, we had to rely on simpler but more appropriate means that reflect the hard work required to succeed in such a harsh environment.
My mother, along with every other mother on our street had many things in common. One day a week was given to making sure the windows were spotless and the curtains clean. Clean and freshly painted windows required effort to maintain but were symbols of a clean, dedicated lifestyle. Although they function to provide a view to the outside world they also provide an insight to the people within. Wo betide the woman with dirty windows.
If there was a death in the family, the curtains would be closed and would remain so until after the funeral. For festive occasions, decorations would be placed such that passersby could peer in and wonder at the joy that must exist inside. On a dark, cold, damp winter’s night, although folks walking the streets would be warmed at the sight of a roaring fire on the other side of the glass, nobody would be sitting in the room. Like the woman with dirty windows, was this just an illusion hiding reality? Was the illusion of warmth and happiness masking a cold, harsh and depressed interior?
To this day I find myself drifting into imagination when I walk around residential and industrial neighborhoods of all classes. I am drawn to the diorama of life that might exist behind the glass, carefully framed by the window.