I am an old house person.
To clarify, it is the house is in this sentence is old, not the person. It’s not that I’m not an old person; I absolutely am, as evidenced – and rather unkindly harped upon on a daily basis, I might add – by the magnifying mirror I had installed in my bathroom when I was less old, before I knew how bad it could get. OK, fine, I’m an old old houseperson. I did promise to tell the truth.
Anyway, old house persons are easy to spot. You just have to look for an old window.
The old house person will not necessarily be through, or in, the window; she will often be standing a few feet away, looking intently at the sash. An old house person cannot help but stop when she happens upon an old window, particularly if it is a stout old eight-over-eight or twelve-over-twelve, chunky hand-carved muntins between the panes. She will reach out a hand to the old sash, coolly leaning back against a wall in a second hand shop, hiding quietly behind a door in an architectural salvage yard. Passing a row of old windows in their intended purpose on a home, she will stop dead in her tracks, a quiet salute to the sentries standing in rank, uniformed in feathery brushstrokes of earthy paint and protecting the contents within.
An old house person will cock her head and look straight into the glass and then begin to do the strangest thing: move just a little, and weave side to side. Bob her head about and turn her face, her eyes fixed firmly on the sash. She will look a little silly to passers-by. She will not care a bit.
That’s when you know that you have happened upon an old house person. She is looking for a little wave in the glass.
Old house persons feel connected to old things. They have found, over time, that it is worthwhile to be and to be with the real thing. They have come to know in their weary bones the timeworn value of something made long ago by a skilled and loving craftsman who took sand and fire and breathed it into being and molded it into purpose. And they know that it is the aged, authentic kind that is sometimes worth the most.
An old house person knows that if it is the real thing, if it is the old glass, it has undoubtedly seen a lot. It is certainly thicker and curvier than new glass, but it has endured all manner of storms. It may be cracked in its corners, but – and she marvels at this – it has not been shattered. Somehow the cracks which might have destroyed it hold together still, altering and it and the way it reflects the light forever, telling the real and true story of fragility and of resilience, of brokenness and of survival. An old house person knows that if she is willing to stop and consider a slight change in position and perspective, she will be rewarded. She will, for her trouble, be rewarded with a magic moment when the old, imperfect glass reflects the light in a curvy kaleidoscope that will make her old old house person‘s heart flutter dangerously in delight.
The old glass isn’t like the new stuff. It is a bit like my memories of the past, of a time when my kids were little and I was young and a magnifying mirror in my bathroom seemed like a reasonable idea. As with the old glass, the view in my old mind’s eye is of something from the past, treasured but hazy. When I remember, I weave and bob and risk looking silly, just trying to make sure it’s real, and maybe to see it again.
Sometimes, I find myself looking back still. Hoping to see that familiar little wave in the window.