Molly Fisk: Unmatched Windows

When I was rebuilding my house, seventeen years ago, I spent a lot of time at salvage yards. I found a good porcelain tub with no nicks and bought the claw feet separately. I found a lovely front door, which now has vines and pears and apples and birds painted all over it. I completely lucked out with a medicine chest, beveled mirror intact, for five bucks. But these were small potatoes. My real find was the windows.

I like the dark, especially at night, especially outdoors. It doesn’t scare me — it’s kind of comforting. But indoors I want as much natural light as I can get. Unlike most of my ex-boyfriends, who preferred their curtains drawn, I want sun streaming in and lifting my mood, which can tend to the morose if I’m not careful.

So I wanted lots of windows in the new house but new windows, as you know, aren’t cheap. I borrowed a friend’s truck and went exploring. In Sacramento there were two salvage places in the same block of 16th St. One was kind of upscale: a big warehouse full of clean windows and doors. After a few afternoons there I bought three long narrow windows, divided by mullions into four panes each. One was smaller than the others. We put it next to the front door, vertically, with hinges so it would open. The other two we framed into the corner of the living room, very close together, where they overlook the old apple tree’s massive trunk.

The other salvage yard was one of those places with broken glass and piles of rusting grocery carts and machinery you can’t identify. It had some great hanging lamps, the kind you’d put low over a pool table, but I didn’t have room for a pool table. There were probably five thousand windows standing helter-skelter under a tin awning outside. I’m quite sure there were rats living in this chaos, but I went back week after week, trying to find what I needed and coming home frustrated and empty-handed.

Finally Rodger, my house builder, said, I need the windows tomorrow. Groaning, I drove down there again, tape measure in hand. After three hours, I’d found eight half-windows, the sash kind, of the right dimension. They weren’t identical: half were six-paned and half had no mullions at all, but they had to do. After some head-scratching, Rodger and I configured them so they abutted the corner windows, the plain glass ones first, and then the six-over-sixes, and made a lovely bank of light across two living room walls.

This completely transformed the house. In summer, the apple’s leaves block out the road and give me some privacy: it’s like being in a tree house, only more comfortable. Finches and titmice race around in the branches.

Spring’s the best, though. When the apple tree blooms and all you can see is pink and white and all you can hear is the fizz of bees, it’s like living inside a bouquet, or a poem.

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  • Marilyn Stahl July 3, 2017 at 11:09 am

    I love your writing, Molly! We have not officially met, but I enjoy seeing you in our sweet little town, enjoying an outdoor patio refreshment from time to time. You make this place just a bit more special! Thanks!

  • Deb Lundstrom June 4, 2017 at 9:12 am

    I love, love, love the last line! Well, the entire piece, but especially the last line. You drew such a perfect word picture, I can imagine being there with you. Ahhhhhh
    Thanks, Molly!

  • Janet Wolfe May 31, 2017 at 5:30 am

    Molly Dear,
    So enjoy your down to earth conversations. You have a way of warming the hearts of many… we thank you for your grace and talent.

  • Angelee Deodhar May 27, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Dear Molly,What a fantastic post this is! and light,angelee from India

  • Shirley May 27, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Good windows make a house. I bought the best ones I could find in the late 70’s. People thought I was crazy for that but later admitted they were the best thing about the house.