| LifeTakes |

Hiding Out

Why am I holding on to something long gone?

We’re playing hide and seek, Gitty and I, on Shabbos afternoon.

She’s six. My oldest grandchild. Two rounds, I tell her. Her mouth puckers. But that’s the most I can do before boredom hits.

Gitty says I should go first. The problem with hiding when you’re 5' 8" is that there are just so many places you fit. Hiding behind an open door sabotages the game, because I’ve done it so many times, it’s the first place she looks.

Under the blankets? Behind the couch? The hallway closet!

I slide the double doors open, squeeze inside. It’s not dark because we keep the light on. It’s a habit from old times when my girls, Gitty’s mother and aunt, slept in the bedroom adjoining the closet. They used it as a night-light. Now that bedroom is a home office, but tradition is tradition, and the light in the closet shines on.

I’m in a tight spot in this closet, between the wall that’s half crumbling and rows of coats and abandoned suits my son, now a father of two, wore in yeshivah. I keep them for the next ones who are now in yeshivah. Maybe they’ll wear them one day, if they like the style, or if they want to go back in time.

They don’t.

Why am I holding on to something long gone?

From the far end of the house, I hear doors slam and cries of “Bubby’s not here!” I fooled her, this grandchild of mine, who believed I’d be there behind the door where she expected to find me. Like I think I can find, in the suits squashing me, the mother of the bochur who is now a man.

I’m beyond that point. The current me is here in this closet with the bright orange walls my son painted when he was barely 13, during his first bein hazmanim, when he thought life was a bowl of peaches. He was going to be done by the night before Erev Succos and get the coats and whatnot back into the closet for my now 12-year old’s upsheren extravaganza.

He didn’t get it done. I did, complaining and frustrated. Because I didn’t realize then that, as a mother, I needed to take responsibility for promises I knew there was no way could be fulfilled.

Does my enhanced understanding of childhood lore erase my foibles of yesterday? This closed space is suddenly stuffy. A pitter-patter of feet comes closer, and I wait. Gitty, find me so I can get out of here.

The sliding door on the other side of where I stand rolls open. I inch closer, ready to leave my confinement. There’s a swish of coats, but nothing more. The floor under my feet turns hard. She left me here to be with myself!

I gaze at the scribbles running down the closet doorframe, numbers of combination locks on the children’s bikes that have been lost over the years. I’d written the numbers there, but not the names of the kid the lock belonged to. What did I think? That the kids would work it out on their own? Back in the day, I twisted each hunk until I matched all the locks to the scribbled number.

That’s how it is. When you’re young, how can you know what to do and how to do it, the cause and effect, if you don’t first try it out and fail?

I hear Gitty from the far end of the house, strong footsteps coming closer in tandem with swishing feet. My husband’s voice asks where she looked already. She grumbles a long list, under, over, behind, and in the closet.

“Where else can you look?” my husband asks, the voice of reason.

“No place.”

“Look in those places you searched before. Sometimes you need to try again.”

I stand still as coats and suits sway, and hangers screech over the rod. Gitty’s second try. Finally, a tickle on my legs, intense eyes staring up into mine.

“Aha! You found me.” I tousle her fine hair.

Sparkles spread across her face and bounce off the shine of the closet light. “Now it’s my turn to hide,” she burbles.


Because you have a long way to go before you find yourself, and in the process, you’ll fail time and time again. But don’t wait too long to let go of those failures, my dear granddaughter.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 766)

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