There must be a 12-step program for people like me. "Hi, I'm Dena Harris and I like to peer into people's windows at night."
I've done it since I was a child. Riding in the back of my parents car on the way home from visiting relatives, I would crane my neck to stare into the lit interiors of the houses we passed. And I wondered about the dark homes, especially the ones with NO lights on. Were the people on vacation? In bed? Were they driving home just like us and how scary and weird it would be to come home to a completely black house. Or were they just scary people, sitting in the dark in the middle of their house with the shades pulled?
But mostly I looked in the windows. I wasn't interested in seeing the people so much as what their home looked like. What color were the walls? Did they have a landscape painting or a deer head over the fireplace? Was the TV on and if so, what were they watching? I'd glimpse a grandfather clock or a dining room table covered in lace. There would be bare bulb lamps and bookshelves filled to overflowing. Every house was different yet I felt I knew the people inside each of them. Probably because I spend so much time guessing what their lives were like.
Even today, walking into someone's home, don't you get an immediate sense of who they are? I'd look into a home and see a TV flickering and the front door open to reveal the screen door and light on in the kitchen and I'd guess the family was getting ready to set down to a late supper.
Some homes looked tired and worn and it was easy to imagine the people in them feeling the same way. But maybe, I thought, they love their little home and think it's the prettiest and most comfortable house they've ever seen. Maybe they loved the way it looked with bare walls and slip covered furniture. Who could say?
All of this comes up because I had another little mini-bout with insomnia the other night and I climbed the stairs in the dark and looked out the window. To my right, my neighbors house was all lit up, although the blinds were closed. But it was obvious that even at 11:30 at night, people were active there. On the other side of our home, it was dark except for the dim glow of the front porch light. Everyone tucked in.
I read for 30 minutes and then turned the light out to head back downstairs. Now my neighbors brightly lit house was dark except for one room. I felt like I had been spying on them, knowing when they had been up and when they had retired.
I wonder what people think if they drive by our home and peer in the windows. Do they guess it's a happy home? Do they picture a big family living here? What do they imagine about our lives?
There's no way to ever know, but it sure would be interesting.