When I was a kid I loathed playing hide-and-go seek. The game made me anxious. Nail-biting, palm-sweating, heart-racing nervousness as I sat in a closet and listened for the terrible sound of the doorknob turning. A sinister game. And the thing is, I wasn’t even bad at it. Because I was irrationally terrified for my very life, my game was on. I picked the most uncomfortable, insane hiding places and camped out there until the game was long over. Under the kitchen sink, behind the insect killer and Pledge? That’s where you’d (not) find me. Up a tree, perched precariously, covered with sap and branches stuffed into my jacket (camouflage, dummies). That’s where I’ll be.
On Friday, we picked up some dinner and headed to my house.
Cole suggested hide-and-go seek, Hayden seconded the motion and Karen and I readily agreed as their current activity involved giving themselves wedgies and screaming at each other.
The kids hide a couple of times but honestly, their hiding places just suck and there’s no sport in that. C’mon guys. You can’t hide in the same clothes basket every time and expect a different outcome. So Karen and I take a turn. I consider sliding in behind the dryer or crouching behind the shower curtain. Because there are two of us, though, and hiding is
less terrifying more fun together, we settle for my darkened bedroom, squatting down behind my bed. We peer under the bed toward the door, watching for little feet. A minute goes by. Two.
“You know, this is nice. Like a little break,” I whisper. Karen nods.
The boys count to 20 (the Kaiser counting in Spanish because it’s his life’s goal to outdo Hayden whenever and however possible).
“Ready errrrr nooot, we’re coming!” They yell out with enthusiasm and trot down the hall. They open doors. They close doors.
“Mommy?” Hayden calls out.
Karen shifts, starts to move. “He gets nervous.”
“Don’t ruin this for me, Karen,” I say. “He’ll be fine.”
“Mommy?” Hayden’s voice is shrill.
I grab her arm. “I swear to God if you spoil this for me I will kill you.”
We hear them shuffle around, looking in the hall closet, venturing into Cole’s room.
“Where did they go?” Hayden whispers.
“I think they disappeared!” Cole sounds gleeful.
But they cannot find us. They cannot find us because the light is off and rather than turn it on and explore, they wander around the hallway, calling out.
“Can you whistle?” I ask Karen.
She whistles, a high-pitched tone. I stifled a laugh and listen.
“Did you hear that?” Cole asks Hayden.
“I heard it. Where they at?” Hayden whispers.
“The hookman got ‘em?” Cole ponders.
Karen whistles again. The boys gasp, their movements more frantic. I clutch my stomach and silently guffaw.
Feet appear at the doorway. I nod at Karen, mouth “1, 2, 3” and we jump up from the behind the bed, scream and scramble toward them. The boys yelp and tear down the hallway with us trailing them, hands raised in faux talons, mouths agape. We are idiots.
While they laughed, they weren’t eager to play again. And I realize that I’m setting my child up for the same hide-and-go-seek anxiety that still haunts me. Still, there are few things funnier than scaring the shit outta a couple of five-year olds.