Hiding is a concept I was very familiar with as a child. There were lots of incentives. I could take cover to escape from the unwanted attention of younger siblings; I would lie low to get out of household chores. As a loner in the midst of a large, noisy family, I was regularly looking for ways to escape. Often, I would hole-up simply to have time away from the fray, to read, or write, or draw. Sometimes I’d seek out a hiding place just to sit by myself for awhile. And, of course, there were games of Hide and Seek.
Our two-story house had nooks and crannies that seemed perfectly designed for hiding. The linen closet was built under the stairs. The top shelf was shallow, the next one deeper, and on like that to the bottom, that was as deep as the staircase. That’s where my mother kept her Kirby vacuum cleaner, folded into its horizontal position. When the vacuum cleaner was in use, though, that long, low spot was perfect to crawl into. Any of the beds offered a similar space for laying-down hiding. The space under a crib, though, with the side rail down, made a little room that was tall enough to sit, and with bars to peek through.
In one of the upstairs bedrooms, sturdy, deep, built-in shelves occupied the space above the stairs. The top shelf was my favorite “get-away.” I would curl up in that high space for hours, a book my only companion. From that same room, it was possible to squeeze through a narrow opening at the back of the closet that led into a narrow, slant-roofed side attic. When I was mad at my whole family, I imagined “running away,” and living in that attic space. From there, I’d be able to sneak down to the kitchen for food when everyone was asleep. Also, crucial to the fantasy, I’d be able to hear them wailing for me, missing me, and regretting whatever they’d done to cause me to leave.
Outside, there were many places to hide. If the corn in the garden was tall, a child could get lost among the stalks. The yard had trees, sheds and a grape arbor that could offer cover. The orchard, tucked away behind the garage next door, was like being in another world. Fields and woods surrounding the yard opened up many other possibilities.
There were rules, of course. Children couldn’t go down the road out front without specific permission, and most of the time, they weren’t even allowed to go near it. Time in the garden was not restricted, but because it was associated with weeding, watering and harvesting chores, it didn’t hold a lot of appeal. The field, with tall grasses, berry brambles, paths and thickets was perfect for hiding, as well as for games and adventure. As children, we could explore, as long as we were always able to see the roof of our own house, and hear our mother call.
Once, as a child, I picked a big bowl of peas, and sat down beside the black shed to eat them. It was warm, and shady. The peas were delicious. When I finally got up and made my way to the house, everyone was seated at the table. Supper was being served. I was in big trouble. “Your mother has been calling you for a half hour,” my father scolded, “we couldn’t find you!” He was sure I’d been hiding. Though the shed was between me and the house, I wasn’t far away, and hadn’t deliberately concealed myself. I honestly had not heard anyone call. At the time, I was puzzled by it. Now. I understand perfectly, as it happens to me all the time. Lost in my own thoughts, I’m oblivious to what’s going on around me. Now that I think about it, it is kind of like hiding.