Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hide and Seek

When I was little, I was frightened by people.

In one of my earliest memories, my father took me with him to a bank—past the lobby and the tellers, into a back office for some manner of business—opening or closing an account, or making some sort of major transaction.. He sat in a brown leather-bound chair and spoke to a man behind a desk. I crouched to hide behind my chair. When the man got up and stepped out, I circled the chair and sat down. When he returned, I hid again.

I understood that he could see me. I remember hearing him make a comment about it being just he and my father in the meeting in such an over the top way that it was obvious, even to me, that he saw me. Just the same, I stayed hidden and followed my father out of the office, refusing to make eye contact with the banker.

It wasn’t just people that frightened me, though. I recall sitting in the backseat when we ran the car through the automated car wash in which water sprayed from all directions and big rubber flaps swung into the windshields with loud thuds. I cowered in the back, covering my face with each collision. Despite past experience and my fledgling sense of logic that my risk averse father wouldn’t put the car in a position imminent risk, much less risk each of our lives, on a gut level, I couldn’t get past my suspicion that those flaps, or the buffers that came after them would crash through the glass and not only soak but crush me.

Years a passed--a few of them, anyway. I went to school and got used to spending time around people outside my family. I didn’t hide behind chairs anymore, or from most inanimate objects. I visited my friend Pat’s house, and we played hide and seek in his backyard.

He hid first. I spotted him standing around the corner from me, against his house, and as I approached and prepared to declare that I discovered him, he ran, spinning around me and darting back to where, moments earlier, I had covered my eyes and counted.

I told him I hadn’t played hide and seek like that. Indeed, the only setting in which I had previously played hide and seek had been at my grandmother’s house, in games for which my grandmother, my sister, and I were the only ones in play. Our games didn’t involve speed and chases. They were about the cunning of finding a good hiding space and the battle of wits required to discover another player’s hiding space. They were about the inevitable congratulations on finding the people doing the hiding, in a game designed for two fairly sensitive kids, an old woman’s house full of fragile trinkets, and to accommodate a seventy-plus year old woman with a bad hip.

Pat and I played the next round--the one in which I hid--by the rules I was accustomed to. When he found me within seconds, hidden behind one of two fir trees in the yard, I had to admit that it felt a little anticlimactic.

But then, perhaps that’s the nature of hiding. We do it as children when our grandparents’ houses and backyard play spaces feel like expansive spaces, full of untold nooks, crannies, and imaginative potential. We see it in movies when the serial killer stalks her prey. But in my real, adult life the most dramatic hiding I can recall doing has been to dodge an awkward run-in at a cocktail party, or to stay out of sight in produce department when I’ve spied a work colleague and I was unshowered and wearing sweatpants.

But these are the exceptions, not the rules.

I suppose as an adult, I’ve gone to parties to be seen, readings and conferences to network, made presentations to be heard. Shared my life in blogs and social media. I suppose now I’m more likely to want to be found than to get lost. More likely to want to be seen than to hide.

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