I recently painted a window. Does anyone do that anymore? Between modern windows that never need painting and old windows that need painting but which are painted by people who catch money being thrown at them by homeowners, it may be rare for someone in my station of life to be painting a window. But it was just one, and I am certainly not too proud to paint it.
My house was built in 1958, which puts me in an interesting spot when it comes to windows. The house was built with window assemblies built of sparkling, space-age aluminum. Or aluminium, for those of you who prefer the British spelling. Am I the only person in the free world who proudly and doggedly clings to aluminum windows? Perhaps.
I am regularly bothered by my doorbell, rung by someone selling replacement windows. “Hello. We are looking for a house to feature in your neighborhood. We would replace these old aluminum windows with modern, energy-efficient vinyl windows at a tremendous discount, simply for allowing us to provide your address so that others can see our installation.”
This, or some variation of it, is a pitch I have received more than once for every one of the 25+ years I have lived in my house. Each time I explain to a salesman (who sports a face which betrays his astonishment) that I like my aluminum windows. I would go so far as to say that I love them. “Really”, I explain, “will your windows be this nice when they have reached the age of 60? I highly doubt it.”
Every one of them opens (both top and bottom) and they never need painting. Each has a storm window installed outside of it. Yes, they sweat a bit in very cold weather but the builders anticipated this and provided a marble sill below each of them. I know, my utility bills would be lower if I had them replaced. But here is my secret:
The prior owners replaced the three biggest windows across the back of the house with new, brand-name casement/picture windows with all those great features like insulated glass, some kind of UV coating on the outside and wooden interior trim. These three modern windows across the back of our house serve quite nicely to provide a view of the outdoors as efficiently as possible. This leaves me with just the small windows in bedrooms, a bath and the garage. I harbor that old-fashioned belief that old houses are like old people – they have to be allowed to breathe. So my aluminum windows have every advantage I could want at a very small cost of added utility expense.
Between my new fancy brand name windows and my fabulous classic aluminum windows, I have been spared every bit of window maintenance in my home beyond the chore of periodic washing. Except for one.
Which brings me back to where we began and one of those fabulous little touches from 1958 – it is a round window.
The one problem with my round wooden window is that it lacks a storm window, so it gets a lot of condensation which is, in turn, hard on the paint. And on the glazing putty, as it turns out. So there I was out outside scraping peeling paint and the remaining old putty out from around the six triangular panes. I began to wonder why nobody ever made round aluminum windows.
Someone somewhere began playing some Frank Sinatra. It was far enough away that I couldn’t place the song, but it was clearly one of those songs from his great albums of the 1950’s. So there I was puttying a window on my 1958 house with Sinatra wafting through the air, and it felt for a moment like 1958.
Not just any music from 1958 would have accomplished this. My neighborhood was the kind of place where doctors and lawyers and business executives built their forever houses. Not the ones from the way high top of the income scale, mind you, but the good solid upper middle class guys who would have had new Oldsmobiles or Buicks in the driveways.
The people who bought those houses were not listening to Elvis Presley or Buddy Holly or The Platters – the early rock and rollers who were selling records to the kids. Nope, these folks bought Sinatra albums to play while they sipped on their martinis or Manhattans as they got together with the neighbors.
I think it was in the middle of this reverie that I got a little overzealous with putty-removal and cracked one of those triangular-ish panes of glass. Bad words were uttered. Which probably happened in 1958 too.
As I removed the broken pane it occurred to me that only two of the four sides of each pane was straight – the other two were curved. Which eliminated the neighborhood hardware store as a place where I could get a new piece cut.
Marianne volunteered to go to the distant glass specialist – which was only fitting since beginning this whole job was her idea. It only took three trips. One to drop off the old piece which I had taped together for them, one to pick up the finished piece and a third to take the finished piece back and make it actually the size of the sample I had left them with (instead of just a little too big). But it all worked out.
My round wooden window is now full of clean uncracked glass and uncracked paint and uncracked putty. And I have that little bit of pride at having done all of the restorative work by myself. I think maybe it might be time to sit out on the porch with a scotch on the rocks and a little Sinatra in the background. It appears that 1958 and I get along pretty well.