Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Window

It was one of the those wood frame windows they built into 2 ½-storey family homes 100 years ago. Perhaps four feet tall, and 2 ½  feet wide with a push up lower sash that allowed cool air to flow in during summer.

My grandparents had their kitchen table set beside that window so they could  watch the weather and whatever else might be happening outside.

There wasn’t a whole lot to see because of the house next door, which had a similar kitchen window directly across the driveway separating the two houses. You could see a bit of both back yards and a glimpse of downtown, which started just a block or so behind the houses.

It was the window through which my grandfather saw the moose arrive one day after lunch. The big beast trotted between the two houses and stood surveying the back yard.

My grandfather kept his legendary .38-.55 deer rifle on a rack in the cold room just behind the kitchen. It was the rifle he boasted could “knock a deer down, clean it and pack it out of the woods with one bullet.” Within a minute or so the old man appeared on the clothes line stoop, .38-.55 in hand, and dropped the moose stone cold dead with one shot.

It probably is not the best idea to shoot a moose just a couple blocks away from downtown. It is decidedly a bad idea to bag a moose in a backyard only a stone’s throw from the Department of Lands and Forests (now Ministry of Natural Resources) northern headquarters.

I didn’t get all the details of what happened when the police and conservation officers arrived. I was told that my grandfather was not charged with anything, that the moose was hauled away and the .38-.55 was back on its rack when I got home. Times were different back then.

There were other scenes viewed through that kitchen window but none as exciting as the day the unfortunate moose decided to visit. There is one other, however, that pushes into my memory more these days as the U.S. presidential race becomes increasing absurd and sad.

My grandfather and I were finishing bowls of his famous Mulligan Stew one evening when he looked out the window and exclaimed: “There, they’ve turned it into a bootlegging operation and gambling den.”

I peered out and saw people next door sitting at their kitchen table playing cards. There was a jug of homemade wine on the table. A day or so later he announced with disgust that he had seen them dumping garbage on their back lawn.

We learned later that they were ‘foreigners’ the first newcomers to a neighbourhood where houses almost never changed families. It was an established  neighbourhood where everyone had an Anglo-Saxon surname. But times were changing.

Not long after, I finished school and moved to another city where my work as a young reporter took me into what was known as Little Italy. I met a girl there and soon was invited into homes where families played cards in the evening and usually had a jug of homemade wine on the table. They also gathered up their kitchen garbage and piled it in their back yards where it rotted and became rich soil for their luxuriant vegetable gardens.

I married that girl and wherever we lived we had a backyard where we composted kitchen waste for nourishing our vegetable garden. And we usually had a jug of homemade wine on our table.

My grandfather used to shake his head and mutter when he stared out his kitchen window and saw the goings on next door. That was because his view was limited to what was offered through a single window.

Every time I see one of the Republican debates on U.S. TV I think about my grandfather’s kitchen window and its limited view. Politicians today have a view of the whole world through panoramic picture windows, yet they see only what they want to see. Too often what they choose to see matches what they believe will get them elected.


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