The definition of home: The windows to a Chicago mom’s soul

When my husband and I outgrew condo living and finally decided to buy a house nine years ago, we weren’t very organized. There were no lists or priorities, no must-haves, and not a single deal-breaker came to mind.

Joe did mention once something about wanting ceiling fans. I may have speculated over the importance of brushed nickel faucets.

We were a couple of nitwits, oblivious to the needs of a growing family. I am still amazed the bank deemed us competent enough for home ownership.

Despite our idiocy, when we did locate “the one,” it reminded me of the moment I met my husband. Oddly enough, there were no ceiling fans and not a brushed nickel faucet to be found. But it just felt right.

It felt like home.

Ten children had grown up in this very house. The energy, the hustle and bustle, and the chaos of all who had lived there before remained palpable. It made me happy.

As happy as the beautiful etched glass windows:

I loved these windows.

I didn’t care that they weren’t energy efficient or that I had to Saran Wrap them each winter. They were chock full of history and memories and childhood itself.

But then one broke.

As did a little piece of my heart.

It was the sign my husband needed to move us into the 21st Century. He wanted a living room that didn’t resemble a plastic-wrapped sandwich. He may have also been a tad grumpy about the enormous heating and cooling bills.

The windows would be replaced.

A cloud of despair descended upon me while the glorious panes were tragically separated and spread across my driveway. Without hesitation, I snatched up the small top windows as a forever memento of our first (and possibly last) house. But what to do with the rest?

Some people encouraged me to sell them. After all, there were new windows to pay for and plenty of buyers loved etched glass. Some suggested the Chicago historic bungalow society might want them. A few people thought I should keep things easy and leave them in the alley for local garbage pickers.

It all felt wrong.

Instead, I posted a little notice on the neighborhood Facebook page, desperately hoping that the previous owner’s children could be found and were as fond of these windows as I was.

I had a reply within minutes.

Several family members contacted me and the windows were whisked away by the next morning.

I am not typically a sentimental person. I did not keep locks of my children’s first haircuts. I abhor knick-knacks. And yet these windows moved me. They had defined the house’s character for nearly a century, and now they were gone.

But somehow, I know the true energy of the house remains. The giggles and tears. The sound of bare feet running across hardwood floors. Balls bounced against walls and siblings’ heads.

The windows may be gone, but my compass has not moved.

I am still home.

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