A recent acquaintance and I have taken up a lovely habit of writing emails to each other. The electronic correspondence began as a professional exchange and has since morphed into a sharing of thoughts and ideas with no rhyme or reason, yet always intriguing slices of life.
The latest email from this acquaintance delivered a brief paragraph about doors—screen doors in particular, the kind that defined houses half a century ago or more. His sentence about these doors described them as wood framed with a thin spring that ran from the door to the frame and which slammed throughout the summer. The email concluded with the lament that he never hears the slamming screen door sound anymore, along with the precise observation that these days, “Everything slides”.
I was both intrigued and amused by this short essay on something that is an everyday part of life, but which rarely is accorded much thought unless broken or in need of repair/replacement. Yet now that my acquaintance has mentioned it, I too miss the slam of screen doors from my youth despite the fact that I have not heard that particular sound in a number of years numbering at least a decade. All of which set me thinking more about doors and the often silent but significant role they have played in my world.
My first recall was of an aluminum and window side door from my childhood home against which, on one particularly frigid winter day, I did the forbidden—stuck out my tongue onto the door’s metal frame. A glass of boiling water later, I was once again free to chatter away with my tongue fully intact.
The next door I remembered was a heavy oak and leaded-glass entry to the West Side double, housing my grandparents on the second floor. The weight of that door made opening it a task beyond my strength for most of my early childhood. When I grew old enough and strong enough to shove the it open, I can remember the slightly musty smell of the tile floor entryway and the separate metal mailboxes that held letters and bills for my grandparents and their downstairs landlords,The Henry’s.
Door number three that came to mind was actually two doors—a set of 18-panel, divided-light French doors that closed off a cherry-paneled den from the living room in the second house of my childhood. I had never seen such elegant doors and loved to close them while I worked on school assignments in the den’s built-in, cherry desk.
From there my door review went to a number of entries defining the early years of my first marriage. Some were attached to apartment buildings, some to trailers and a few to houses. Their commonality was that they all slammed— both in enthusiasm and in anger and occasionally into broken shards of glass and strips of wood.
Marriage number two took place at my current home and the remodeling work to prepare for the big event led to the discovery of two oversized oak panel pocket doors secreted away behind layers of wood trim.They and the story of their discovery continually delight all who enter through them
I could never forget the barn doors that have highlighted my life, from my grandparent’s dairy barn to the sweet smelling hay storage barns of my aunts and uncles and ultimately the barn and stall doors of my own family’s horse training barn where we bred, raised and trained world champions. Endless hours of hard labor and remarkable experiences took place behind those doors with sights, sounds and smells that will forever define my memories.
My mind went slightly off course with the next door, actually more a lid, as I envisioned the final closing of a casket over the remains of loved ones—all of whom I continue to miss everyday.
My favorite door was the final stop on my life tour of entryways. Actually two doors—- both screens and both leading from the heart of my home to my favored wrap around porch.They are white and ornately carved in the four corners as well as in the center where a shamrock appears.While they are not connected to the door frame by a spring, they have been slammed freely and easily by myself and the collective of family and friends who have passed through them over the last twenty years. And that’s when I realized the true significance of doors in my life.
I have welcomed and watched people come and go through doorways of homes and apartments and have done the same myself for more than six decades. Some of the passages were filled with the exciting anticipation of returning from absences of hours up to years. Some bore the sadness of a final exit due to a job relocation or a lover’s departure. Some were nothing more than mundane crossings of the kind that define the everyday world of grocery shopping, school meetings, family dinners and taking out the garbage.
And some were imaginary entrances that led me to new adventures with people and in places I could never have imagined before finding the courage to take that first step.