Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The One With The Witch's Window

Joining the memoir meme again at The Red Dress Club.

This week's prompt:

Think of a room from your past. It can be any type of room at all.

Take a mental picture of that room.

What happened there? What is it like? What is the atmosphere there? What are the smells, the sounds, the sights? How does it feel?

Now reveal that snapshot to your reader.

Take us to that room.

Knowing which room was easy.  Sticking to the 750 word limit?  Just don't count them and we'll call it good ok?


The window was the first thing I loved about the celery green farmhouse.  I loved it more when I learned it was called a Witch's Window.   Nestled in a corner, overlooking the tin porch roof,  peeking sneakily down the road.

Whether you entered the house through the front door off the porch, or the back door through the carport, you'd land in the kitchen.  A half wall separated the kitchen from the dining room, which was never used for dining.

A flimsy plywood door off the dining room opened to reveal the most amazingly wonky set of stairs.  Three imossibly shallow steps, and a sharp turn to the left took one on a stair climbing adventure requiring feats of balance and stealth.  Each step being at a startlingly different angle from the last, and from the next.  The passage so narrow that the walls served many a climber as means of support.

At the top of the stair, a hard left brought one facing the doorway to the room with that window.  Right angles and level surfaces being scarce in the hundred year old farmhouse, the door never closed properly.  Directly to the right of the doorway, a closet,  missing a would be ill fitting door.

The wide pine floor boards were partly covered by a deep red carpet. A remnant from the back room of the mom and pop rug shop in town.

Opposite the doorway, the ceiling was at a steep slant from knee high up,  papered with a delicate flower pattern.

Tucked under the slant, a crib.  Handed down from my sister,  pale wood and plain design. A light green sheet hugged the mattress. A quilted ABC bumper cushioned the slats.  A few blankets folded at one end.  A stuffed animal or two sat waiting.

There was no need for a mobile hanging above.  An ABC patchwork quilt, matching the bumper, hung on the slope, where it could easily be seen by a little one looking up.

In front of the crib, a large cradle, made by my grandfather.  One of the last things he'd made before his mind stopped letting him create.  Darker wood than the crib, it looked older than it was, had no decoration save a heart carved at the head.  It was overflowing with blankets, mostly knit by families of my patients at the nursing home.

At the foot of the crib, sharing the nook under the steep pitch of the ceiling, a small bureau, painted white. An empty picture frame, waiting to be filled with chubby cheeks, sat on top.  The drawers were organized by item and size.  Sixty three onesies, I'll always remember that number, sixty three, folded in perfect squares, in perfect rows; white, green, yellow.

The other two drawers were filled with more green and yellow, as nobody but myself knew the secret that I held in my belly; that this baby would be a boy.  I'd told no one.  Not even Al.  And no one, not myself nor Al, could have imagined the secret that the boy held.

Above the dresser, on the wall to its left; the window.  Its angle mimicking the lean of the ceiling.  I'd fashioned a curtain out of a scrap of fabric plucked from a yard sale.  It didn't cover it, and bits of light peered out from the winking eye.

Sharing the wall with the window, a small shelf, home to a few elephant figurines; charms for luck.

To the left of the doorway, the changing table.  A matched set to the crib.  A green terry cover over the concave mattress.  Two shelves underneath with baskets full of square towels, plain white burp cloths.

I'd insisted I would need one, and the brand new glider rocker sat in front of  the closet. Off white cushions on chair and gliding footrest. I'd often sit and and rock my belly, allowing my mind to fast forward to rocking its inhabitant.  

The window did not let in much light, and the small lamp on the dresser lessened the dimness only slightly.

A dark womb with only a soft glow sitting in its corner.

Cozy perfection.

I cannot regret asking Al to shut the nursery door before I went up to pack for the trip to Boston.

Nor can I regret not asking my friend to take a picture of the room before she dismantled it, sparing Al the task.

It is ok, that the only picture I have of that room lives in my mind.

It truly is ok, that the only evidence I can show of that room, is the window that drew me to the old house in the first place.


  1. Oy- the room lives perfectly in your mind-
    So you were one of those people- I find out the sex or I know the name but you have to wait-

  2. That dark room, with the glow.

    So, so lovely.

    This house is seeking you out, because you're writing about it. Isn't it funny how our words will lead us where we need to go, sometimes?

  3. Oh My God. You wordsmithy you! Great memoir and I LOVE that house. So Vermont, so you! Bittersweet memories eh?

  4. Can you get any better? I was right there every moment. Beautiful piece and beautiful room, I saw it through your words.

  5. Serene. That's what I felt reading this. Lovely.

  6. Your writing sucks me in.
    and then I don't want it to end.

  7. Very beautiful and moving. As a mom of a CDH baby, as I was reading it, I was just thinking that your son's room in Vermont will always remain that perfect in your mind, whereas when we finally bring home our CDH babies (those of us so very lucky to do so), at least for most of us, their nurseries, lovingly prepared, turn into mini hospital rooms, with a loud oxygen machine invading the quiet, with a food pump and supplies (for some) invading the corners, etc.. As I know you know, as the machines go away, and the room returns to a normal kids room, there is a sense of joy and accomplishment. So at least there is that. Thanks for sharing!!!

  8. WOW... you have an amazing memory Tulpen I must say... There are so many things that I like about this piece. It has this constant tone of expectation and yet there is a melancholic trait that makes it so rich. I loved a few lines so much... It is indeed a beautiful house, i guess almost perfect. And perfect it would have been.

  9. I am in awe of your writing and the attention to detail. Fantastic piece.

  10. I loved this and remembered when you talked about this before.


  11. This is wonderful.

    I'll say it again, and you can shoot me down again.

    You are surreal at this word stuff.

    Truly...be serious about it, and start to put it in a binder.


  12. Very nicely done. There is such a strong image in my mind, am interested in seeing more.

  13. Your story continues to astound me in its gravity, humanity, and resonance. Great work with this week's prompt.

  14. Love the line about always remembering that number of onesies. Funny what sticks with us. I envy your memory and ability to provide such a rich description. Me, I would need a picture! This is a great post and I voraciously read the "secret" link too.

  15. that you can give such vivid descriptions just from your memory is amazing. your writing is beautiful, truly.

  16. I was hooked in the first few sentences. Wonderful writing.

  17. Really lovely. I love the womb-like room, and all the details you lovingly picked out for him. And the 63 onesies.

    Such a beautiful, special, painful memory.

  18. What a wonderful tapestry of nostalgia, hope, melancoly and acceptance. The details were so soft and loving that it really did feel to me in the end that it really was ok that the only picture was in your memory.

  19. You are a wicked writer, you know that?

    This was so many kinds of perfect.

  20. This post was simply amazing. You saved that tiny room in your mind, cherished it and then recreated it for us in all it's lovely detail.

    I had to smile at the onesies. So many and babies only need a few. It's was the perfect nod towards first time motherhood.

  21. Perfection. I love your description of the staircase, I'm out of breath having to climb such awkward step stairs. I can see you sitting in the rocker, rubbing your belly, daydreaming. Lovely, thank you for sharing such a bittersweet memory.

  22. There are no words that I can write here to add to the beauty of what you have already written.

  23. i was transported there instantly.
    achingly beautiful. especially with the photograph at the end.


  24. The picture captured forever in memory is always the better remembrance.

    I could see your old creaky beloved farmhouse so succinctly. Beautiful, sad portrait of a shattered dream.

  25. i echo only...damn. tight picture you got there...shich seems only appropriate...the dark womb...heavy.

  26. Tulpen, this is exquisitely written. Even the label "heavy sigh" is perfectly fitting. My comment here can not express how amazing I think this is.

  27. that picture is beautiful. so beautiful!

  28. I love it when you said you "rocked your belly". And 63 onesies. That's alot. You remember a lot and so very beautifully too...

  29. I recall reading before about this room, and I wondered whether you'd write about it upon this prompt. Thank you for sharing more about it.

  30. What I appreciate about you, Tulpen, is that you're not a gusher, you're not over-flowing with emotion - and yet, your story is full of it. Simply presented in a such a direct, minimalist way that allows the reader to absorb the full impact of what you're saying.

    I see that room too. It was beautiful.


Use Your Words.