Window Gophers

turned off laptop computer with near wall

Dillon Shook-Unsplash

There’s not much to see outside the window where my desk sits: a big swath of sky, a maple tree, the row of townhouses across our narrow condo street, a shaggy pine that was once a shrub but now obscures the neighbour’s front door, the shadows of people in their kitchen windows.

Our street is a dead-end and holds only 14 units: there is no through traffic. Every car that motors up the hill and turns into our laneway is scrutinized thoroughly by me and any neighbours who happen to be in their kitchens. Like gophers, our heads pop up as we follow the progress of the vehicle. Funny thing is there is more traffic now on our tiny street than before. A daily parade of UPS, FedEx, and Purolater trucks, the unmarked vehicles delivering Amazon packages, and of course Skip-the-Dishes and Uber Eats drivers meander into our neighbourhood.

My Grandma would have loved this new, busy pattern. She’d moved to our small Vancouver Island town from Chicago where she was accustomed to the sound of steady traffic all hours of the day, sirens of emergency vehicles, and lots and lots of foot traffic outside her apartment. She complained daily that there was nothing to see outside our living room window in Comox.

As a child, I was perplexed by Grandma’s complaints since our first home on the Island had a spectacular view of the Comox Glacier and the harbour leading to a river estuary. There were always Bald Eagles to watch diving into the water and pulling up fat salmon. Back then there was still a small commercial fishery and boat traffic chugged slowly by on the way to deeper water fishing grounds. The only sounds were birds, lawn mowers, and intermittent jet traffic from the nearby air force base. Occasionally, an ambulance siren would wail on its way to the hospital just up the road.

I supplied Grandma with most of her excitement when my boyfriend would drop me off after a date. We’d sit in the driveway, headlights out, necking, knowing she’d be watching. We’d stop our long good night kiss and look up into her bedroom window and there she’d be, her lights off but the outline of her upper body and her silver-blue hair clear. And then we’d kiss some more. I could hear her in my head going “Tsk”. Sometimes we’d see her shaking her head – whether with disgust or dismay, or both, I don’t know – and we’d laugh. Sometimes we’d sit in the car and not kiss and just watch her window and count out the seconds until she popped into sight.

Now I’m the gopher in the window, eagerly wondering who is getting what from Purolater or Amazon, speculating about home reno needs, dinners, food and other critical supplies inside the boxes ranging from refrigerator size to small, padded envelopes. The distraction from the monotony is delicious. New faces in the neighbourhood – so exciting! Men and women delivering goods. Uniforms and everyday clothes. Hat and hatless. Smiling or grim faced. Waving. No waves. I bellow out “Thank-you” when a package one of my daughter’s has ordered arrives. I don’t care what’s inside but, goddamn, I’m so grateful to hear a new voice reply “You’re welcome!”

28 thoughts on “Window Gophers

    • When I go out for my daily “Covid” walk, I see many more people than when I walked pre-Covid. I guess everyone is feeling cooped up and longing for space and faces other than family or the one in the mirror.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I too immediately thought of Mrs Kravitz. Some days I fear that’s who I’m becoming.

    This week our neighbour directly across from us celebrated his 80th birthday. I know this because someone – I’m assuming his son – had the entire front year covered in banners and balloons. My husband called me urgently to come outside to see. We laughed at ourselves… the little things that now excite us and cause us to rush outside in our isolated world!

    … and I too yell thank you and wave to the delivery guys. Each new delivery is a special occasion. They’re like busy little squirrels in the fall, depositing nuts all over the neighbourhood.

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    • What a great description of the delivery people as squirrels depositing nuts! I think I know more about my neighbours now than I did before and we’ve lived here for 28 years. We even acknowledge each other more than we did before so there’s something good coming from this crazy situation.

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  2. Susanne, I am glad to hear from you – I understand your fascination with the new faces. My grandmother spent an inordinate amount of time at her kitchen sink. I wondered why she stood there so long after she’d finished the dishes until I realized she was staring at the window above her sink. She was a great storyteller, and I’m convinced at least some of her material came from the window above her kitchen sink.
    So keep on with your watch. No telling what you’ll see.
    Stay safe and sane.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Windows are definitely the unsung muses of writers and storytellers. The visions! On the other hand, our small dog also keeps watch out the living room window presumably for marauding monsters and the rounds of barks he lets out once spotted! Well, I can only assume those barks translated would not be saying “Golly, Moses”.

      May you and Pretty stay safe and sane, too. Hugs to you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ya, it was a shock when that thought, that I’d become my grandma, popped into my head. Life is full of surprises. All in all, I’m faring well in isolation, probably because I’m with my family – though at times I’d like a little more space to roam. 5 adults in 1500 sq. ft. is cozier some days than others.

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  3. Wow, two totally complete images so different from each other and yet connected. Love the gopher image. But so fascinated with your response to your grandmother’s spying. I would have been WAY too embarrassed.

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    • My grandma and I goaded each other mercilessly. It was a fractious relationship and even when I tried to bend to her expectations she was still highly critical. I got a perverse pleasure out of being deliberately “bad” in her presence. My poor mother, caught between us. What a family. I should write about them!

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  4. I feel like Mrs. Kravitz from ‘Bewitched’ lately. Remember that show? I really could care less, but I do catch myself often staring out the window. It must be a once-you’ve-passed-into-the-next-half-century kind of thing or maybe just a writer looking for content. Yeah, I’m gonna stick with that last thought. Looks like it works for you, Susanne. Grandma’s shadow and TSK? Priceless. Be well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I remember Mrs. Kravitz from Bewitched. “Frank, I’m getting a sick headache.” I don’t think that was Mrs. Kravitz, though. Another character from the show. Since I started writing, I do a lot of staring out the window as I wait for the many things percolating to whittle down to just one thing that needs attention but until lately and this Covid isolation, ironically, there wasn’t nearly so much going on out there. Its fascinating! My grandmother was obviously a closet author.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s been a while Sue I was getting worried! I liked this, there isn’t much action on our dead end street. It’s kind of eeri when we go for our walk and hardly see a car or people…..lucky boyfriend and shame on your grandma!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nothing to worry about, JB. I’ve been writing other stuff off-line and doing a really stupid amount of spring cleaning. The garbage men – bless their weary souls – must be going nuts because from what I can see lots of other people stuck inside are doing exactly the same thing.

      Since you lived just down the street from our duplex in Courtenay and never drove me home, we were too stealthy for Grandma! 😉 Thinking a lot about my dear old gran these days. I suspect in her cranky way, she was just concerned about her granddaughter.

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    • Thank you, Jan. I’ve been stuck in the doldrums so you haven’t missed much. I loved your piece on adoption the other day. It echoed my thoughts and experiences as my daughters grew into adults.

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"The river flows both ways." (Margaret Laurence)

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