Writing Assignment One
Here it is - my first effort in Writing Class. The assignment was to write something with the title "The Window."
Windows aren't always made of glass. I've come to think of them as openings that allow us to see what could otherwise be unknown. They're everywhere, and if we're paying attention, they can teach us all kinds of things. For example, the Thursday special may provide knowledge of the chef's culinary inspiration. A red carpet gown can shed light on its designer's personality. 'In The Mood' certainly lends insight into the songwriter's thought patterns.
In the case of my grandmother, a late model console organ became the window that gave an unusual glimpse into the life of her neighbor, Barbara.
My grandmother was a romance-addict. Perhaps it began with her courtship. For each date, my grandfather arrived with a box of chocolate and a Harlequin novel. When he asked her to be his wife, she became the heroine of the romance that lasted “till death do us part.” Throughout their marriage, she read every love story she could get her hands on. She actively watched the soaps. She adored the romantic stylings of the Lawrence Welk singers. I believe the books, songs, and stories reminded her of weekends with her one-and-only.
Barbara lived across the street, and sported a vintage '60's beehive. She was short, stout, and despite the throwback hair, always looked prim and proper. In the months following the death of Barbara's husband, my grandmother and I would visit — just to check on her. I always enjoyed seeing her. Sometimes, she'd let me listen to the banter on her CB radio. Barbara explained that talking on the CB helped pass the time.
My grandmother had different hobbies. After my grandfather died, she never considered another man. Therefore, speaking on the radio with strangers was absolutely out of the question. She preferred making music. Aided by large-print fake books, she spent her afternoons playing 'I Dream of Genie,' and 'Toot-Toot Tootsie' on her console organ. She enjoyed playing as much as I enjoyed listening to the funny old songs.
One afternoon, I walked into the living room. My grandmother was sitting at the console, her ear leaning towards the speaker. “Can you play 'Bird in A Gilded Cage?' I asked. “Shhhhh!” She motioned for me to sit next to her.
She whispered, “I'm listening to Barbara talk to truckers on her CB radio!” Sure enough, Barbara's voice emanated through the speakers. A gravelly-voiced truck driver asked to meet her. I listened with rapt attention as they settled on the local greasy spoon at 8 o'clock. I was stupefied. “How's that work?”
“Shhhh!” came the reply. Silently, we sat listening for quite awhile. When the conversation got a little racy, my grandmother turned the organ off.
I glared at the keyboard. “Does it always do that?”
“Well, it didn't used to — but lately, I can hear everything!” she answered gleefully.
I recently asked my friend, Bob, an engineer to explain why this particular window opened.
Bob laughed. “Well, organs made before the dawn of electronics produced sound from little glass tubes. When the tubes started to wear out, they'd develop vibrations - radio frequencies… The tube's vibrations were strong — but probably only transmitted over short distances.”
I was fascinated. My grandmother's organ, through wear and use, had a second life as a boxy old antenna!
“So what you're saying, Bob — is that other people could pick up Barbara's conversations because my grandmother was transmitting them further?”
“Not only that — it was quite possible that your grandmother was broadcasting her music to the truckers without even knowing it!”
Barbara's conversations were just the entertainment my favorite romance-junkie craved… When I think of my grandmother, sitting at that old console, in my mind, I hear her playing 'In The Mood.' I hope it became something pleasant for Barbara to listen to as she primped her beehive and prepared to meet her date. It seems only fair that my grandmother would return the favor.