And then there was the time we hid under my parent’s bed so that she wouldn’t have to go home. I don’t know why I remember this now, particularly. There are children playing hide-and-seek in the house (not our children, not our house). I guess somehow that makes me think of this one afternoon, a long time ago. A friend of mine had been over for the day, and now her mother was coming to pick her up and we did not want this to happen. Somehow every time a friend was picked up by a parent, it seemed like it would be the last time we would ever have such a chance to play and be carefree. I remember tears and tantrums; perhaps it was a manifestation of only-child loneliness, perhaps simply a particular quirk of character, a shimmer of the anxiety and self-doubt that was to come.
But this friend (another only child) seemed to understand; and then her mother arrived, and it all seemed too awful. I can’t remember who suggested it first but suddenly we were under the bed in my parent’s room. I don’t know where our mothers were; perhaps they were in the living room, having a coffee and a chat, oblivious to our plan, thinking we were playing quietly in my room until the very last moment when we would have to be parted. But I know that after a time they called for us, and we didn’t come, and that was okay; most of the time, children don’t come the first time you call. But then they called again. And then, eventually, they scoured the house for us, and then in panic they ran out into the street and began to ask the neighbours, have you seen our daughters?
And the more we could hear their panic the more frightened we became of revealing ourselves. We wanted to crawl out from under the bed, but we couldn’t. We couldn’t face the shame. We would be in so much trouble. We had done something so very wrong, and out of such an innocent motivation. We scarcely knew how it could all have become so complicated so quickly.
We were in trouble, of course. We suffered both the wrath and the relief of our parents. Then, after awhile, we weren’t in trouble any more. After awhile we were older and after awhile longer we were living in different cities and hardly even knew each other any more. But still, we’d done something very foolish together once.
And now here I am in a thatched English cottage, thinking of that day. Things are funny.