May 21, 2005

Playing Monster

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.


~profgrrrrl~ said...

Can I come play at your house? Please? It sounds like so much fun.

purple_kangaroo said...

Oh, that sounds like so much fun!

When I was growing up we would play "Dark-Time Hide and Seek" outside in the woods after dark.

We had a very large backyard. It was on a hill with all kinds of booby traps--trees, blackberry vines, ponds, a creek, dropoffs, etc.

The overhanging trees made it almost pitch dark, and we could creep down the forest paths and jump out to scare each other.

liz said...

Oooh, I want to play too!

Psycho Kitty said...

Please send me a map.
I have this funny image: You always talk about the kids and the friends they bring home along the way. One day you're going to wake up to find this gaggle of grownups sleeping at the bottom of your stairs, waiting for you to get up and play Monster with us.

Rhonda said...

Oh, we used to love hide-and-seek in the dark. I used to hide on a door--stood on the doorknob, hooked my fingers over the top, and swung the door mostly shut, so I was inside the closet. Worked beautifully, except my sister once opened the door, peered in the closet (inches away!), then shut the door. Poor fingers.

I so want to come play.

jo(e) said...

Of course you can all come and play. In my family, adults play games just as often as the kids.

Phantom Scribbler said...

The stories that your children and their friends will have to tell someday!

Do your kids know how lucky they are?

Friday Mom said...

What a blast! I would love to listen in ten or fifteen years from now when your kids tell stories about life at growing up. So many good stories....

Yankee T said...

You inspire me to enjoy my kids even more than I already do.

Rana said...

So fun! It reminds me of a game that is probably much the same, but we called it "Murder in the Dark." It too involves lots of hiding from the person seeking, and trying to be the last one not caught.

I still remember this one great hiding place I found; I stretched out on the floor along the base of the kitchen cabinets, just where there was a long, dark shadow. It was just far enough off the traffic pattern that several people walked by me, not noticing me there at all. Then my dad walked into the kitchen, flipped on the light, and was horribly startled to find me lying there, unexpected.

Thanks for triggering that memory!

BlackenedBoy said...

This has given me an idea for a post! My brothers and I used to play a very similar game.

I also wanted to say how lovely I thought it was that Boy-in-Black (who I can see from other entries was seventeen at the time of this post) was still keen on playing such games.

alfa said...

so interested