Early Morning: Michigan
Up the stairs, first room to the right. You’re there. A perfect little shoebox of a room. So small you can stand in the middle and almost touch all four walls. A tousled bed, the floor a comfy nest of sweaters and board games and books. Harriet the Spy and Eloise always invitingly on the top layer.
Little Miss No Name, with her ragged dress and removable tear, sits reproachfully in a corner. I whisked her away from the commercial where she was barefoot in the snow and selling matches, but I can’t love her.
TV Guide has been thoroughly scanned and circled in excited anticipation of a Sunday afternoon or late night rendezvous with Bette Davis, Fred Astaire or Judy Garland.
It’s still dark. I wedge myself in the tiny space between the bureau and the wall and wait. Gold-rimmed glasses crooked on my nose, my eyes are just level with the windowsill. I look out and there it is. With a wave of warmth, the sunlight rolls into the sky.
Morning: Queens, New York
The plane banks steeply and all of a sudden there it is! Like a platter of delicious canapés, the buildings are close to enough to reach out and grab. I want them so badly, I want them all. Lorenz Hart’s “Isle of joy” spilling out into my arms as I reach for my suitcase.
I’m finally here.
On the taxi ride in I make note of all the dry cleaners on 2nd Avenue. Just in case.
First day, first job, The Random House building at Third Avenue and 50th Street. Terrified of being late, I am instead, hours early. I creep around the corner and anchor myself at a coffee shop counter for an unwanted second breakfast. Finally it’s almost time to go. But as I attempt to fold The New York Times like a native, the stool spins and suddenly my half finished bagel sprouts wings, only to crash land buttered side down in the middle of my lap.
With twenty minutes to go, no dry cleaner in the world can save me now. But I am in New York, home of magic and dreams! One hundred and eighty degree turn and I land in the opulent, lilac scented Waldorf Astoria ladies room, fully armed with a newly purchased can of K2R Spot Remover.
Moments before 9 am I am ready, peering anxiously through the glass windows of one of the most storied publishing houses of all.
I am so afraid. But I’ve arrived.
There are no windows on the 8th floor where I work, glamorously huddled before my typewriter tapping out Knopf’s royal blue labels and serious correspondence on thick, buttery sheets of paper. The Xerox machine and I are on very intimate terms. The halls are filled with nervous heroes: Julia Child, Placido Domingo, Joseph Heller. We never knew who those elevator doors would part to reveal. But their well-known faces are uniformly anxious: all confidence rests completely with their quirky and self-possessed red-pen wielding editors. Everyone knows true immortality rests on the printed page.
Alone, I squeeze in for a concrete seat in a vest pocket park, and unwrap a sandwich. Talk swarms through the air, clouding the tiny space but none of it comes from me. There is no one to talk to. Doesn’t matter. I have a plan! Later I will swing through the revolving doors with a forward P and a backward P and enter the “lobby which is enormously large with marble pillars and ladies in it.” I will go everywhere and do everything because, as Eloise intones, “Oh my Lord, there is so much to do. Tomorrow I think I’ll pour a pitcher of water down the mail chute.”
Oh I wish I could!
As I slowly return to my cubicle I can just see the sun reflecting from the windows, cutting through the buildings.
Late Afternoon: Riverdale, The Bronx
If you lean in tight and crane your neck just so you can almost see the edge of my Broadway Boogie Woogie in the distance, as it continues to percolate through the jungle gym of Manhattan. But I know it’s far away. Every day it feels so much further. As if we are now on another planet.
Pay attention! The better view is straight across through the vast open windows of the sixteenth floor. The Hudson churns by and over on the other side New Jersey actually looks welcoming and green, just like they always promise.
Laundry Mountain has been ascended, Sesame Street is over, the scooter race down the hall completed, the pile of books have been read and read and read once more. Night is coming. I pluck the two tiny boys from their spinning Dizzy Discs. And together we look out the big window.
“Ah,” they point and sigh and sing, “The moon! The moooooon! The mooooooooon!”
It shines through the window on all of us. Our faces glow.
Early Evening: Westchester
Determinedly I grip the wheel, eyes on the road. I drive hither and thither, catapulting from parking structure to parking lot, picking up, dropping off, driving this way and that. Queen of the Roads, I have a personal parking spot everywhere I go: Middle School to the Mall, Trader Joe’s to Target.
The backseat is layered like a bean and guacamole cheese dip with Lego boxes and Pokémon cards, comic books and Crazy Bones. We are ready! We have everything we need. Now there are three little boys.
Through the window, my strong left arm is burnished a deep, dark brown. I don’t have time to look out, but it doesn’t matter. I can still feel the sun.
A beloved and happy place, all duct taped together, all full of love. Our house. Day after day I ping pong my way through the rooms with scarcely a glance at the walls or a look out the windows. All the boys are home, safe and happy. It’s them I want to see. Let the cats commandeer the windows. They are bravely keeping watch.
Then, no matter how much I’ve prepared, when I least expect it, they have gone again. It’s quiet here. Alone, I gently take a soft cloth to the slightly smeary windows. I rub gently and peer outside. The sun is still there. I can still feel the warmth. I need it.
Through all of my windows, I look out to look in.