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Small Talk: Behold the door

Doors. Sometimes full of potentially poetic meaning and sometimes utterly pedestrian. They are mostly something we race through so often, we don’t even notice them.

Doorways are the gates of chi in feng shui and have been a focus in many cultures and many tales. “Never darken this door again” and Jim Morrison’s The Doors come to mind. Pyramids had doors where only the priests could enter, and a locked door with a hidden key always figured in the classic mysteries.

I’d like to say I have been giving doors a lot of deep contemplation, but deep contemplation rarely shoehorns itself into my general schedule. Anytime I indulge in it, I fall asleep. Fortunately, I have a lovely writer friend who did the deep thinking for me and then graciously shared some thoughts on doors that set me thinking.

She recently visited her childhood home to find it had been given an extraordinary new door. She immediately felt it changed the entire energy of the home, both before you entered and after. The shift struck deep chords in her. As she put it, “It took me and started to wash the walls of the old writings that marked my youth – the old writings that you would just assume weren’t there. We all have spots like that, marked up.”

She spoke of “the dignified cathedral door, the pretentious bank door, the revolving door, the forbidden door and the humble tent-fly. Front doors often acquire a character reflecting that of their owners. There is the furtive door, opened a cautious 6 inches; the sagging, dispirited door with its air of defeat; the blatant door, quivering on its hinges to a blast of sound from the radio, the blank tightly closed door; and the friendly open door, through which is transmitted pleasant, homely signs, sounds and smells.”

I first discarded her theory that I am like my door, since it serves many masters. The original door on my house was so drenched by errant sprinklers that it finally warped beyond redemption. I like to think I am not warped beyond redemption, but my family may hotly debate that.

I agonized over selection of the new door, weighing beauty against affordability and availability. I chose one that seemed solid, very practical, with nothing fancy save for the tiny beveled windows. I could identify with that. We put it up ourselves and found no matter how terrific the new door was, age had caused the entire house to list to port, leaving the door always a little off kilter – now that sounds familiar. There is no way, short of major reconstruction, to make it smooth and sophisticated – yeah, that’s me. The door tries its best, but there is always a small gap that would be unacceptable if we lived in a less forgiving environment. Again, I identify.

Then I contemplated the other doorways in my life, and like my writer friend, I saw how many marks, visible and hidden, there are. There are smears that measured my babies’ growth, frustration in the slammings, the dent where my son took a 15-stitches header, dog pawprints, shoe scuffs, my daughter’s extemporaneous artwork – the signs of life, messy but marvelous.

Occasionally, my door and I stick and creak, but like my door, I try to stand sentinel between the world and my family. And as often as the world will allow, my door and I stand open and welcoming, delighting in the laughter of visitors and the feel of the onshore breeze.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer wondering if her life or her door will ever be plumb. Contact her at [email protected].