In my childhood home there was a window situated right at the turn in our staircase, only slightly higher than the steps themselves and just a short flight down from the second floor.
Very dangerous spot for a window, if you ask me. Full of deadly possibility. Just one sleepy tumble in the middle of the night. One aggrieved sibling’s shove. One careless misstep in the morning race to get out the door. If you’re a parent, your own feverishly overactive imagination can surely fill in the tragic outcome of these and similar scenarios.
But nothing bad ever actually happened, and in fact that window holds a special place in my memory.
On cold winter mornings the glass bloomed with the most gorgeous swirls of frost etched in amazing, ever-changing icy patterns. I can still visualize the tiny starbursts, the spiky tendrils that unfurled like the flicker of a whip. “Looks like Jack Frost painted our window last night,” my mother would say. We learned to sit on the staircase landing, lips not quite touching the glass, and slowly release our warm breath to generate new trails of sparkling crystals across the window’s clear surface.
Jack Frost never visits my adult home—a downside of energy efficiency, I guess. But the glass on our unheated sun porch is single-paned, and when it’s bitterly cold like today, opening the inside door works the same magic as exhaling moist air from our lungs.