Our house is a small colonial, which is the most efficient kind of house to heat during our cold winters, and the first floor is mainly one big room, with my office and a bathroom tucked into the northwest corner. Upstairs we've got bedrooms. Having just one big living area in the house was my idea when we were building the house: I did not want a separate family room or dining room or anything like that. I liked the idea of the family spending time together. But what I didn't take into account is how difficult this arrangement would be for playing games like hide-and-seek. When your house is one big room, where do you hide?
My kids don't call it hide-and-seek; they call the game Monster. And creating places for tall teenagers to hide involves serious preparation. First, the kids gather up the piles of blankets we have in the boys' bedroom and thumbtack blankets over every single window to make the house completely dark. Our home does have many windows and this preparation involves kids standing on furniture, balancing on the arms of the couch and chairs. Luckily, my house is decorated in a style that a friend of mine refers to as Early Garage Sale so the climbing about on furniture is not a problem. The kids put duct tape on the microwave so that we won't get any light from the little green numbers. For safety, musical instruments are gathered up and deposited in my office, which is off limits, of course. And the kids dress themselves head to toe in black. That part is not too difficult for my boys. Boy in Black doesn't own much besides black - and the hand-me-downs his brothers wear are black as well.
The familiar house becomes a different place when it is completely dark. When it is my turn to be the monster, I walk slowly, afraid of stumbling into a piece of furniture that someone has moved. I can't see anything so I listen for breathing or giggling. When I come to the edges of the room, I start reaching out with my hands to feel for human bodies. It is sort of creepy. It's weird to run your hand along a kitchen counter and suddenly feel a foot. I scream a lot when I am the Monster.
Sometimes I can tell by smell which person is hiding near me. Daughter and Blonde Niece both use nice-smelling floral shampoo so their long hair leaves a trail of fragrance in the air. Often when I approach a corner of the room, there will be a sudden burst of energy. Bodies running, sliding, slipping past me, off to hide somewhere else. During these wild chase scenes in the dark house, with teenage bodies slamming against the furniture, the house does sustain some damage. Lamps get broken pretty often.
With-a-Why is still small enough to fit inside a kitchen cupboard so I never even try to find him. But what amazes me is how teenagers who are over six feet tall can disappear. One of Boy in Black's best hiding places was to lay his long skinny body on the kitchen counter, pressed up against the wall. He took a white toaster and put it in front of him. The toaster was the key; just the gleam of the toaster gave the illusion that all was in place on the counter.
Sailor Boy once took a white lampshade off a lamp and then stood in a corner underneath it. The illusion was perfect. In the dark house, everyone mistook him for a lamp. Once the couch was filled with kids who had been caught, he started inching his way over to them, his arm outstretched, to free them. They screamed in horror.
"Know how the trees come alive in the Wizard of Oz?" Boy in Black said. "It was like that. Suddenly the lamp came alive and started reaching towards us."
Eventually, Spouse and I declare our bedroom off limits (we have a lock on the door), and we go to bed. But the game rages on. I fall asleep to the sounds of kids running, screaming, and giggling. In the morning, I find kids asleep all over the house. One on the couch, one in the big comfy chair, many on the floor - all wrapped in blankets that have been pulled down from the windows, often with thumbtacks still in the corners. The duct tape will still be over the clock on the microwave, but I leave it on and let the kids sleep. I love the timelessness of a Saturday morning.