Saturday, September 14, 2013

Stuck in the Closet: It's Not What You Think

I am six years old – or maybe five.  I am at home in the apartment I lived in with my parents in Silver Spring.  They are at work and Uncle Richard is watching me.  We were born on the same day, Richard and I, fourteen years apart.  So he is still a young fellow and not all that interested in the niece who adores him and who, in her only-child solitariness, delights in a companion.

Begging a game to play, he, reading the paper, tells me we’ll play hide & seek and I’m to be the first to hide.  I am thrilled.  I’m good at this and I know just where I’ll go.  I am certain he’ll never find me there.

I go into my bedroom and even then want to make it interesting (at least that’s what I’m thinking I thought), so I lock my door (children should not have locks on their doors and I am living proof).

Then I go to hide in my closet.  It is a space jammed and crammed with little girl stuff – clothes and toy box and toys and school papers and . . . stuff.  I am not an organized child, so opening the sliding closet door is its own challenge.  After wrestling the door open just enough to squeeze in, that’s what I do – squeeze.  But the space is too small and I am stuck – jammed literally between door and door frame, unable to go either in or out.  The closet door is rock solid and will not wiggle even an inch.  Even now I wonder what had it stuck – probably the plastic hand of my favorite stuffed beloved pink monkey – it would be fitting to be caught by the monkey’s paw.  But if it was, I will never forgive that monkey – never – I’m like that about some things.

It didn’t take long to reach a threshold of panic, for no matter what I did, I only became more lodged in the secure embrace of the closet door.  It was like a living thing that would not let me go (hence my aversion to The Wizard of Oz and its grabbing trees – now that’s terror!).

I began to shout my panic to Uncle Richard.  It seemed an eternity before he came to my rescue although I’m sure it was only a few seconds (at least I hope it was – I hope he didn’t leave me in that closet longer than necessary just to keep a kid off his back.  Uncle Richard?  Did you?)

As an adult I can imagine the mounting concern Uncle Richard experienced when he tried to open the door but could not, as he hollered to me to open the door, but I could not.  Impasse.

I think I must have been able to tell him through my tears that I was stuck in the closet, but all I remember is hearing the sounds of my young Uncle, who was and still is handy, getting the tools to take the door to my room off its hinges.  Once that laborious process came to an end, my release was pretty quick as Richard dislodged the thing that kept me stuck (I wonder if he remembers what it was).

The story is shortened in family lore to the time I got stuck and Richard took the door off to rescue me to his parting shot, spoken with his boy-man grin, Next time, hide under the bed, will you?

Sometimes a closet is a metaphor.  And sometimes people must free themselves from their closets.  But sometimes a closet is just a closet and a little girl is just a little girl, glad of an Uncle Richard to come to her rescue.  Whether he ever knew it or not, my Uncle Richard has always been my champion since the day he freed me from that closet.  And we could all use a champion every now and again, couldn’t we?

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