It was about 8:15 p.m., and the sun had already slipped over the horizon. Traveling down this unfamiliar street, my eyes were drawn to a pretty lamp in the picture window of a home. Softly lit, the lamp sent me back about 50 years.
When I was a child, I knew people who had that lamp burning in the window, and that lamp resided in homes where I wanted to live.
As a little child with only a few birthdays under her belt, that lamp in the window said a lot. The lamp usually lived in those big fine houses in town; the ones this little farm kid dreamed about and yearned to live in, instead of a drafty old farm house situated five miles away from everything.
But regardless of where that lamp lived, I knew what else resided in those houses. From my youthful perspective, that softly-lit lamp in the window also meant the perfect family lived there.
You know exactly what I mean ...
When the lamp was turned on, you knew Dad was sitting nearby, reading the newspaper after a long day at work. Of course, it also meant Mom was in the kitchen. It was obvious because you could smell the home-baked bread and the meat in the oven. A pie, still warm, was just waiting to be dessert.
As the lamp burned in that front picture window ... the children were doing a variety of activities, like quietly playing a board game in front of the fireplace or practicing for an upcoming piano lesson.
The unsaid activities inside that lamp-lit home were even more appealing. Nobody was worried about paying any incoming bills, and Dad’s wallet was fat. The temperature inside was warm. The clothes worn were of the finest quality. There were family vacations being planned and other outings, where the family would happily co-exist without financial worries entering into the equation.
Yes, that was what lived inside the house where the lamp burned peacefully in the front picture window. At least, that’s what I thought was living inside, and compared to my youthful life, it seemed about perfect.
There was no lamp burning inside my window. Mom was at work; Dad wasn’t in the picture; Grandma was at work; and Grandpa was doing farm chores. Nobody read the newspaper at night because everybody was too tired. Bread came from the store because nobody had the time to make/bake it, and dessert ... well, that was reserved for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The piano had seen better days, and it didn’t matter because there were no piano lessons on our itineraries. There was no time for after-school board games in front of a fireplace we didn’t have because we had farm chores to do and dinner preparations with which to help.
The unsaid activities were similar. Family vacations? The county fair was the biggest one I remember, and the shirt on my back was more of a family heirloom. And financial worries? Every day of our lives, money was an issue, and nobody’s wallet or purse was fat ... Do I need to continue?
But to this little kid, the lamp-lit home was completely different. It represented everything I wanted, thought I needed and wished I could have.
Now, a lot older and hopefully a bit wiser, I know that lamp in the window represented absolutely nothing. I know now my friends who lived in those lamp-lit houses had just as many problems, issues and daily worries as this little kid, who lived in a drafty farm house and seldom had dessert.
But now, as I look back, I realize what I was looking for in that lamp-lit house was something I already had. No, the piano lessons never came, but there was more love in that drafty old farm house than any lamp-lit house could have mustered.
While the moral to this old story is that grass is always greener, I have to believe the lesson is much brighter than that lamp-lit home, for sometimes we have to grow up and look back inside that home to see what we really had.