Windows and Dreams

April 25, 2010

“…But more important still was the idea of windows; at age fifteen, I saw them as opportunities to peek out to outside world I knew little about, but dreamed to discover one day.”


Dear Papaito,

I sent the first draft of my thesis to my advisors. I was forty pages long, without concluding remarks and a missing part, which I did not have time to finish, and which, incidentally, I am supposed to be writing right now, instead of writing to you. But as usual when this is the case, so it goes.

All day yesterday I could not bring myself to even look at my laptop, so I took the day off from anything academic, and instead took care of a few pending household chores. How exhausting thesis writing must have been, that washing dishes and doing laundry felt like that well-deserved break I’d been waiting for. So is that one of the perks of being an academic? that housework feels like a ride in the park? I’ll have to add that to ‘flexible work hours’ and ‘perpetual student’ (which sort of sounds like a life sentence, but it is actually a perk to me).

So yesterday I was looking at the tree outside my window, and decided it deserves a name. So I’ve named the tree ‘AbdAllah.’ It was the first name that came to my mind yesterday, so that’s his name now. AbdAllah the Tree outside Janan’s Window (full name). Although this morning it suddenly occurred to me that he may be a she, in which case, I’m not sure she’d like the name all that much. Although, doesnt ‘abd’ also apply to females?

As per my love for windows, which, if I remember correctly, I said I’d give some thought to…this is what I’ve come up with so far:

The year my mother, siblings and I spent in Lebanon, -in what was my mother’s attempt to realize her lifelong dream of moving to a Muslim-majority country,- my stepfather, who stayed in Ecuador, decided to enlarge our house. Now we would all have our own bedrooms (we were four kids then, plus my grandmother, so that was three additional bedrooms to the house, plus a laundry room and a few other things). The construction would take place while we were away, and be ready by the time we came back… I was fourteen years old then. And I remember telling my mother that the ONE requirement I had for my new bedroom was that it should have large windows. I did not care what side of the house my bedroom was located in, or what story, or whether it was smaller than my sister’s , I just wanted large windows.

In Beirut, our apartment was Beirutesquely small, and I shared a bedroom with my older sister Khadija. So I often had fantasies of returning to my home in Quito, and having a bedroom of my own, with large windows. Or rather, of having large windows of my own, with a bedroom. I imagined myself spending long hours by the window, and jumping out to the roof (we had a large roof). Not that going to the roof was a forbidden thing, but the idea itself was exciting. On practical terms, it would give me privacy. By not going out through the door, nobody would be able to know when I was in the roof, so nobody would interrupt my reading and writing. But more important still was the idea of windows; at age fifteen, I saw them as opportunities to peek out to an outside world I knew little about, but dreamed to discover one day.
So the first thing I did when we returned to my home in Quito, in the Fall 1999, was run to my new bedroom to inspect the windows…. The first thing I noticed when I entered the room was that the curtains were red, not purple, so my dream of having purple curtains would have to be deferred… but the windows?? pulling the curtains apart, I found floor-to-ceiling windows!! They occupied almost the full length and width of the wall!! And as imagined, they did lead to the roof! But wait…could they be opened??! I looked for knobs. Found them… Twisted one upward and heard a click! I pushed the glass softly…Now it turned out that the real windows, as in openings designed to be opened, not merely to look out…were disappointingly small, approximately 20x30inches each…. But I’d told them!!!

Unwilling to give in to disappointment so quickly, I took a deep breath, and decided give them a try… I pushed the window pane as far out as I’d go… then I put up one leg… then another… I seemed to be working… it seemed to be working… and it worked!! I was out! Quickly, and before anyone could see what I had just found out, I jumped back into the room, and walked downstairs to where the family guests who’d come to greet us at the airport, and then joined us at home, were still gathered… I joined the crowd with a gleeful smile… I had a secret, and only my windows and I knew…

More on windows on a future occasion, inshaAllah. Now I should probably return to my thesis.

J.

ps1: In the photos you may see my window in Quito, and the view out, taken one morning at dawn.

ps2: My thesis advisor just e-mailed back with feedback!!! hay Dios mio, let’s see what she says… :/

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