A front room. A parlor. A room separated from the rest of the house by French doors. Lovely French doors.
As a child I stood outside the windows and looked in wondering why I was not allowed to play there. Why were there doors inside the house that were always closed? Why was this room so special? Why was there a door to the outside porch? Another front door. A front room. A courting parlor long out of use. A room where the man who came courting entered by that other front door. A room where the couple met with windows where parents could keep an eye on the interaction of the young folk. A room long out of use.
Granddad Loxley’s home had a beautiful front room. His house was so lovely and included many bells and whistles long before other homes caught up. My favorite place was, obviously, the front room. French doors separated the dining room from this special place. In essence it was the living room, yet a room set apart. the old player piano sat against the wall. The brick fireplace framed by two window seats. A front door opened up onto the front porch where the swing sat waiting for the next occupant. I always knew that if I went into that room, I needed to be on my best behavior. The French doors were swung open when the family came for Christmas, that one time of the year.
Pop Johnson’s house had French doors. The doors were always closed again until the family came to call. I never played in there. It seemed to be very apparent that the room was off limits to anyone shorter than the huge, standing radio that sat beside the doors. (I think it might have been a Silvertone radio from Sears and Roebuck.) This room was small. A big piano sat along one wall and a horsehair sofa on the wall next to the front door that opened onto the porch. There was no fireplace. Instead there was a mantel. Sitting in front of the mantel was a small, composite dog. A fascinating item for a little girl looking through French door windows.
My Aunt Welma and Uncle Bob had French doors. Another room set off from the rest of the house. Again, it hosted a front door. French doors like the others that were seldom open. The parlor was Aunt Welma’s pride and joy. Her loveliest pieces of china resided in the china hutch. And, another horsehair sofa waited for someone to come calling. A room, like the others, that was seldom used.
Theses home all held several things in common. A front door that was never used as such. Small-paned French doors that were also quietly waiting. Rooms that were always a bit cooler than the rest of the house. Rooms that were not receptive to fun and laughter. Sofas that remained like new year after year. The little girl on the other side of the glass often wondered if there was ever family fun inside those walls.
Certainly other older homes in the area were constructed the same. It must have been a time of plenty for the French door manufacturers. One Christmas the French doors were opened at Pop Johnson’s house. The family sang around the piano and Aunt Bess and Uncle Sam gave a toddler a painted pony to ride. Maybe that one experience was what draws me to those windows time after time. Small fingerprints and probably a smudge from a little nose questioning even back then. The doors were always closed.