When Tommy was eight, he smashed a window. It was an accident: He was playing pick-up baseball with boys from the neighborhood. His house was the one with the big, flat yard. So flat, in fact, that water stood in puddles on the grass after every rain. But on that day it was dry, and the boys had shown up with a motley collection of bats, worn gloves and a bag of once-pristine baseballs. They set up and started to play.
They were far enough away from the house, or so Tommy thought. And anyway, the batter was facing away from the house, and the pitcher wasn’t that good, quite frankly. But then his bat connected with the ball, and he felt it right down to his heels, the kind of hit that had some serious power behind it. Trouble was, that power sent the ball behind him.
The smash was incredible, filling the whole world, little bits of glass fell to the ground in slow motion. Tommy stood there and stared dumbly at the window, at the shards that remained, and then behind the jagged window frame at his mother’s face.
“Oh,” Tommy said, and that was all he could get out. His friends cursed. Some of them ran away. Others stood their ground, flanking him.
They shook their heads.
“You’re going to be grounded forever,” one of them said sagely, popping his bubble gum.
But an amazing thing happened.
His mother was upset, of course. And his father was a little upset, too. But when Tommy’s mother finally went up the stairs for bed that night, his father looked at the plywood board that now covered the gaping hole. He looked at Tommy.
“Awesome smash, wasn’t it?” he asked, his voice the low tones of a conspirator.
Tommy had to grin. “It sounded so cool, Dad!”
“Don’t ever tell your mother that,” his father laughed.
The next day, Tommy watched as his father pulled out the shards of glass. They went into town and came back with a bright, shiny new window, the panes as clear as air. Tommy pushed and pulled and hammered and helped put the window in as his father talked about how he used to play baseball when he was a kid.
“Accidents happen, son,” he said. “It’s just a reminder to be more careful.”
But Tommy had discovered something even more important: That he could make something straight and new and right again. Making that window strong and true was much more fun than baseball ever was.
Kayley the window maker’s daughter
Ten years later, Tommy had given up baseball for cars, and then girls, and then he had given up all girls for one: Kayley. Her father happened to own the store that sold the window Tommy’s father had purchased a decade before, the one Tommy had put in after the original was broken. When he walked through the store and looked at the rows of glass catching the light, he had the feeling that the broken window of his childhood just might have been providence.
“I want to work here, sir,” he said, and Kayley’s father had raised an eyebrow and looked him up and down. Tommy knew he didn’t approve — after all, no one would ever really be good enough for his little girl — but Kayley’s father eventually smiled.
“Let’s see what you can do,” he said.
Ten years after that, Kayley was heavy with their second child and Tommy was working with the construction crews, delivering and installing windows in grand new houses. And ten years after that, her father passed away and he now owned the company. He expanded and hired a slew of managers and built it into an empire.
A familiar sound
And on a Sunday morning, while he was sipping his coffee and watching the news, there was a familiar sound. It was a sound that took him instantly back in time. He rose to his feet as the baseball landed with a thump on the hardwood and rolled to a stop by the fireplace. He looked out the broken window and saw the face of his grandson, small and nervous, flanked by a few friends with wide eyes.
And rather than get upset, Tommy chuckled. Then he laughed. His laughter was still going full-force when he walked toward the door, headed for the backyard where he would ruffle his grandson’s hair and reassure him. Then he would put him to work installing a new window, and teach him valuable things about the tools and the quality.
And who knows? Maybe that boy would run the company one day.