*This story is dedicated to all the parents out there who are terrified at the thought of playdates happening at your house.
“Now, son, when you’ve been at their house for a while and things are winding down, I want you to suggest a game of hide and seek. Mrs. Parker will be so taken by visions of nostalgia that she won’t even realize that the game should be rejected.”
Mrs. Parker is one of those women who we call “slow in the domestic arts.”
Any true woman would know that children playing in the house leads to children discovering your messiest corners and deepest secrets. Any true woman knows to keep everyone at least 15 feet away from those depths and corners. But Mrs. Parker is one of those hippie moms, always wondering how everyone does it? How do you manage all of those children, keeping up with emails, cook dinner and having time for yourself? She’s always asking us annoying stuff like that.
Anyway, I knew that she’d be on some remembering her childhood nonsense and allow this game of hide and seek to rage unregulated in her home. Like an amateur. So I sent my son in.
I always see her from my window dragging in some beat up item from who knows where. I see her out on the lawn always painting some piece of furniture or setting up her camera or staring at the sky. I want to know what sorts of things she’s hiding.
“Take a look around for things that aren’t normal, things you’ve never seen in our house.” She’s stranger than the rest of us. She’s bound to have strange things. “Backs of closets are a cozy spot to rest boxes filled with stuff. What’s on her nightstand? What’s under the bed? Do the hand towels in the bathroom match? Are there any hand towels in the bathroom? What does the bathroom sink look like? What does the kitchen sink look like? Are the dishes in the sink fairly clean or are they full of grimy stuff? Is there any dust gathering in corners of the rooms? Along baseboards?
Mrs. Parker is busy recollecting her past. She’s always loved hide and seek. Even as an adult, she’s played it with friends. It never get’s old so long as one keeps searching out new places to play. She sees the kids running about. Another one shouts “18. 19. 20. Ready or not, here I come.” That last part is important. Her daughter almost forgot that part just now but she reminds her. “Don’t forget. You have to say ready or not…”
It makes her happy to see that despite the activities of the world, kids manage to keep the strongest games of childhood alive. Sometimes it happens when they are isolated from the things they know, like out in the woods. Sometimes it’s when a new situation arises like a friend comes over and they want to entertain. Sometimes it’s after a hurricane when the power has been out for days.
Mrs. Parker’s daughter opens 3 doors and somehow misses every hiding person. She is now searching in the wrong side of the house. Mrs. Parker studies the game with keen interest. She is beginning to grow frustrated. The others can sense that a time for action has come. They start constructing a path for her. “Come and get us,” they are saying. “I bet you can’t find me. I’m over here.” She calls back questions, “What did you say?” And they respond, “I’m right here.” She hones her sense of hearing. She narrows down the target.
The target is in risky territory. He loves the thrill of leading her closer, but he fears the moment when sunlight streams in across his back as she pulls open the closet door. He decides for one more time. “I’m here,” he says, letting the last sounds fall quietly like drool from his mouth. His heart races. Her eyes narrow. She’s got him.
It’s at this point that Mrs. Parker realizes that the boy has been caught hiding in her closet. “Children, out of my room please. No one should be playing in my room.”
Endnote: I tried to incorporate multiple themes in this little tale. I’d love to hear what stood out to you the most.