Through the Window

We are considering a remodel. And while we are still at the beginning of the process, problems have already emerged. Namely, which child will get what bedroom.

The kids aren’t fighting about it; they’re 4 and 2.5. It’s Michael. As we poured over the plans for the house like the Goonies examined their treasure map, I happened to ponder aloud, “What kid should get which room?”

Without a breath of hesitation Michael stated, “Whichever window is harder to sneak out of goes to the girl.” I laughed. Our daughter is still in a crib, clearly not a flight risk.

“That girl is going to be serious trouble,” he said, nary a hint of humor in his voice. “I need to build precaution into the walls and windows of this place. Might as well include ‘daughter-proofing’ as a Line Item sooner than later.”

There goes my double oven, I mumbled.

I thought about Michael’s concern later that afternoon and recalled the home I grew up in. It was on 10 acres of rural Minnesota land. My room had three windows, one of which was accessible by standing on a large PVC pipe that protruded from the wall just beneath it.

Of course, that didn’t mean much to me… at least not until Danny Matz.

Danny Matz and I were in the same grade and from as far back as anyone could remember Danny Matz was the epitome of ‘cool.’ I really don’t know how that’s possible. Are some kids just born with the cool gene? Or do they walk into kindergarten and somehow get tapped with a popularity wand while the rest of us are funneled unwittingly to the carpet for story time? Even now, I see Danny on Facebook from time to time (not often though—because that wouldn’t be very cool) and he’s still got it. Innate coolness.

I, on the other hand, was your quintessential not-cool kid. I was fashion-challenged (I didn’t own a single pair of jeans—they felt icky on my legs). I was slightly eccentric and inherently odd. Fortunately, I was more or less oblivious to my shortcomings through much of elementary school and into junior high. My parents magically cracked the “teach your kids healthy self-esteem code” and I was pretty ok just being me.

Though, as high school approached I found myself wishing to be different—or, less-different, rather. I found myself longing to be the kind of girl Danny Matz would notice.

Then one day, he did.

I was staying after school for speech practice and was down in the commons area trying to get a soda from the vending machine that wouldn’t take my dollar when Danny walked in followed by his band of merry men. They were laughing about cool guy things as they lined up at the machine behind me. Suddenly feeling very self-conscious about the wrinkled nature of my dollar bill, I stepped to the side, soda-less.

Danny then approached the sugar-filled tower and dropped three quarters in the slot. Tiny red lights danced to life alongside his various beverage options. I watched him choose Welches Grape. (He is perfect, I whispered to myself).

Suddenly, Danny turned his head my direction (Shoot! I did I say that out loud?!). Timidly I met his glance; his eyes were so, so green. Before I could move or speak or faint, Danny took a step in my direction.

“Want a sip?” I stared at him. Speechless for the first time, ever. He asked me again, opening the can and holding it out to me. I looked to Danny, I looked to his football-playing buddies who appeared as shocked as I was. Was this a trick? “Just have some,” and he placed the fresh, cold can of Welches Grape Soda in my hand.

I took a sip and handed it back. He took a sip. “I’ve got your germs now. It’s kinda like we kissed…” He smiled.

We were going-together by the end of the week.

Danny and I then proceeded to break up and get back together no fewer than 50 times between 1994 and 1999. We passed notes and gave cold shoulders. He escorted me to Homecoming dances and broke my heart when he left with different girls. I got even by dating his best friend(s)… all of them.

But even through all the nonsense, I owed Danny. I felt the ripple effect of that single sip of Welches soda for the duration of my adolescent years. Danny liked me just as I was and that was all I needed; as if I had been granted some strange, unnatural permission to be myself while everyone was trying to be someone else. His acceptance became my greatest asset.

And then one spring night our senior year, I was able to return the favor.

It was well after 10pm when I heard a tap-tap-tap on the glass of my bedroom window. Even in the darkness, I could see the glowing green eyes of Danny Matz. He was standing on the PVC pipe and asked through the glass, “Can I come in?” I thought allowing a boy through my window in the middle of the night was probably a bad idea so I motioned him in the front door.

We tip-toed to my bedroom, undetected. We lay down, side-by-side in my twin-sized bed—staring silently at a ceiling we couldn’t see. And just about the time two crazy teenagers would commence the behavior that makes fathers want to double the remodel budget for daughter-proofing, Danny started talking like I’d never heard him before. Talking about his mother; a woman in the fight for her life against cancer. Danny was scared. He was sad. He was confused. He was angry.

Several nights he came to my window and for 20 minutes or two hours, I wasn’t sure, we would lay there. Him talking, uncomfortable about the deluge of uncool things he likely hadn’t shared with anyone else, me just listening and keeping his feelings safe.

It was in those quiet, vulnerable nights with the boy who shared a sip of his soda, that I discovered what true friendship was; the rare gift of being fully yourself, stripped of any genetic, granted or perceived coolness, and knowing you’re good enough.

I know the world is a much different place now; that social media and social pressures have changed since the turn of the most recent century. However, part of me still hopes, as my daughter grows into the woman she will become, that she has those real, precious, safe moments of friendship where she is loved and loves in return—just as they are.

And if that involves an occasional tap on the window, then so be it.