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Rear Window

Growing up on South Draper St. in Champaign, IL., I had the best bedroom a boy could wish for. With walls and trim painted in orange and beige, it was a fun little room. In the evenings and on the weekends I'd watch PBS on the small black & white TV situated across from the bed. On the bed, I'd sometimes build a fort and pretend I was defending it from an oncoming horde. A desk somehow fit in there, as well, and I'd put the small blue typewriter my parents gave me on it, and plunk-out short stories, or use it to interview my 3rd grade teacher for a writing project.

Of everything in my childhood bedroom on Draper St., I think perhaps my favorite part of it was the window. This portal to the outside world was big enough for me to sit on the sill and take-in what was beyond, yet feel safe enough within the confines of the room itself. The window looked-out onto our back yard, where there was a tall Sycamore tree (so tall, in fact, that I could see it from the playground of my grade school), a sandbox at the base of the tree, and a tree house my father built. Oh, and there was a shed in the very back of the yard.

Right off of the window was the back patio, painted a deep red. It was the location for many a family gathering, and I can still envision the parents, aunts & uncles, cousins and grandparents sitting back there wiling away the spring, summer and autumn days. On occasion, I would also use this as a more direct route to the sandbox. First, climb out the bedroom window, then onto the patio, then out into the yard and to the sand (or tree house). This was never my mother's favorite method of travel for me, as it meant she'd lose track of where I was.

When I wasn't crawling through the window on some adventure, I was looking through it, surveying the land. Directly behind our property was the home of Bob & Alice, an elderly couple who sometimes babysat me, or who mom & dad would play cards with. Alice would often greet me with cookies at our adjoining fences. I'd sometimes peer at their house, wondering what they were up to. It always fascinated me, what adult people did with their lives. Little did I know that adulting isn't as fun or exciting as I'd imagined it to be.

At night, I'd look out of the window and up at the stars. There was the first Christmas Eve after I found out the truth regarding Santa Claus, and I saw a short streak of light zig-zagging away into the sky. To this day, I've no clue what it was, though that night I still wanted it to be Santa and his reindeer sleigh. On certain occasions, I'd prop-up my telescope and aim it out the window, taking-in some close-up sightings of the moon, or the Big Dipper, or Orion's Belt.

There was also the steeple to the Champaign Church of Christ, located on the corner of Westlawn & John. Its tall steeple was bathed in a soft white light, and I could see it from the bedroom window. Viewing that steeple through the window provided a sense sort of comfort for me. I'd sit there and reflect upon its calm, silent presence above among the tree line. Mom told me that my late great-grandmother, Marie Newman Langley, had loved the fact that the steeple was in view from my window. That made me like it even more. She died when I was three, so any memory of her I could have was a welcome one.

I'm not sure who all has been in that bedroom on Draper St. in the intervening years since my parents sold the house in early 1986, nor what type of view they've enjoyed from its window. The Sycamore, tree house, sandbox and shed are all gone from the backyard. I recently drove by the Champaign Church of Christ at night, and the steeple wasn't lit. I imagine the view isn't as fun these days.


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