So far, this post has generated more personal comments to me than any other of my newspaper columns. People tell me this one is clipped, and hanging on their fridge.
We start out by identifying clear boundaries: You cannot hide on the roof (anymore), inside of cars or, definitely, in the house. Warmer Octobers, unlike this one, have, in the past, led us to impromptu games of Ghost in the Graveyard.
While summer traditionally holds hosting rights to this game, October offers an enticing venue for this nighttime version of hide-and-seek for two reasons: primarily because it’s a frightful game, tying in perfectly with Halloween, and secondly, and more importantly, October features short days, making the official start time of the game much easier to accommodate in our lives.
Still, despite this early nightfall, I find myself resistant to embark on this game. I feel the strings of domesticity and the demands of homework, and quite frankly, I’m just too tired to summon the energy to play at this hour. But there are nights when I catch a glimpse of the moon, sometimes obscured by the branches of a tree, and I see that the moon is staring right back at me.
Now, I think I’m missing out on something. We gather the kids and venture outside in the dark to play. Don’t underestimate the power of the moon; just look at what it does to the ocean.
From home base, the ghost starts the countdown — 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock — while everyone else hides. Once the ghost reaches “midnight,” he is free to leave base and search for us; our goal is to sneak back to base before the ghost finds us first.
As I hear the ghost approach “7′o’clock,” I panic because I have not yet found a spot. I start to run, I feel my blood start shooting right up to my toes and I’m breathing heavy. Soon, I’ve broken into a sweat. “This was effortless,” I whisper to myself under my breath.
Funny how this nighttime run fails to invoke the monotony that often accompanies those forced runs I try to take. Yet, it seems to have the same effect on my system.
A small hand grabs my own, and a voice says, “Mom, I want to hide with you.” We take off running, and I stumble on the perfect spot — the railing of the deck creates safe roof access to a hiding place where the floodlights do not reach. Just as the ghost yells, “midnight,” I lift my son over the railing, sit back against the wall of the house and wait.
My son’s body shakes against mine, heaving from the giggles he is trying to contain. “A spot like this could keep me winning this game for years to come,” I think. But before the ghost even takes three steps, my son yells triumphantly, “You’ll never find us! We’re on the roof!”
After a few rounds, we have exhausted all hiding spots and, unanimously, we are ready to call it a night. I catch a glimpse of the moon again, this time lighting up the flushed cheeks of my children. “Is that a glimpse of stillness I see coming over their faces?”
What originally started as the kids’ “great idea to delay bedtime” seems to have had quite the opposite effect. This evening run in the fresh air, accompanied by the adrenaline rush, seems to have flushed out the tensions of the day, unknotted my own worries about tomorrow and effortlessly moved us through that awkward transition time between day and night; between doing and being.