Winifred’s Window

Jamie O’Reilly’s Blog. An Introduction.

Give me this sunny morning, light on the leaves of the sturdy geraniums, a soprano singing Franz Lehár on the radio, and the taste of summer-fresh strawberries.

This brilliantly pleasing summer morning, I’ve set myself up at a white lace covered table, bleached in sunlight, on my newly redecorated porch. Flowering plants surround me in a three-season room with a view. Loyola’s lakefront campus just a few blocks away, a near-edible breeze coming through the second story window. Mourning doves sing on the wire. The alley below is silent and empty.

I’m thinking of my mother and lighting a candle. I water the outside flower boxes, and check for dropping petals from the daisies in vases lining the kitchen windowsill. The spot I call Winifred’s Window. Most sumptuous in the early morning light.

Hundreds of mornings like this I called her first thing, after the moon disappeared and the first violet streaks of dawn pushed through the sky. I knew, if my Mom wasn’t already awake, she’d still answer the phone.

“Did I wake you up?” I’d ask her.
“What time is it? I must have fallen back asleep. I woke up at 1:00 and moved to the chair. I watched an old movie. You know the one. With, you know, that singer. She was in all of them back then.”
Most likely I knew exactly who she meant.
“I’ve never had pain like that!” she resumes, after a pause, forgetting she had.

“How are you darling?” she’d then ask.
“The apple tree is blooming,” I’d report.
(Or), “I just saw my first robin.”
(Or) “WFMT just played Schwarzkopf singing Wiegenlied,”
I’d tell her, knowing she was a favorite.

“What time is it now?” she’d ask again, after consideration.
“Six -thirty, (or seven, or eight)”, I’d tell her.
“Oh, well, I’ve got to get up!”

Just like that, the conversation ended. She hung up and started her day.
And I started mine.

Death of a mother people warned, it changes you. Grief, they tell you, it sneaks up on you. When you least expect it. A smell or sound or the simplest thing sets it off. I wouldn’t know. I never lost a mother before. And I’ve never lived without one.

I don’t have the hours of weeping. The frozen-in-your tracks daze. I have the pull, the deep ever-present ache. The tap-on-your shoulder reminder, there’s no one on the other end of the phone, in that place, taking my silly call anymore. No parent giving me permission to move on.

But her voice moves through my every morning. Beyond the sentiment and memories. The begin-again tact of my mother, vital til the day she died, my imperator, tells me to keep on, keepin’ on.

And so, I have started with a new direction, and this new website. Jamie O’Reilly: A Voice for the Soul of the City. Singing new songs with a piano player. Reviewing my years of work, highlighting some of the best of it, and expanding my writing as essayist and blogger.

And so it begins.


  1. So beautiful, Jamie. Your Mother was a truly extraordinary woman! She inspired so many. She was the one who encouraged me to become an actress and gave me my first opportunity in that direction. Never had done it before. She was so joyful–such a beautiful soul, with a wicked sense of humor, to boot. I can just imagine how much you miss her, but Winifred’s Window is a fitting tribute to her. Wishing you much success and joy with your new website and all your other new endeavors.

  2. I am so touched by your lovely words. I too miss Win. Our Scrabble games and phone conversations are truly missed by me. I have her photo placed so it is the first thing I see in the morning and I always say “Hello”.
    We will move on, but she will be forever in our hearts and never forgotten.

  3. This is from my Mother’s friend Barbara. Thank you Barbara.

    I truly miss your lovely mother also. I placed her photo in my bedroom and every morning when I get
    up I say” hello” to her. Our calls and Scrabble games were the highlight of my day.
    Win taught me so much about patience, acting and directing and about how to grow old gracefully,
    enjoy life and to remember one’s friends. Win will be forever in our hearts.

    Barbara Joabson

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