One of my brothers, City Boy, has a hilarious and disturbing memory from our childhood. The whole family was on a trip together, the three of us kids long since tucked into our polyester-sheeted hotel beds for the night. City Boy was having a hard time falling asleep, when he heard my mom trying to talk my dad into Business Time. Dad reminded her that three children were sleeping mere feet away and tried to dissuade her. But my mom usually gets what she wants, and this time was no exception. Panicked at the direction things were headed, City Boy began to silently pray. “Please God, please, please help me fall asleep. Please help me sleep RIGHT NOW.” When the whispering and giggles continued, City Boy tried to silently beam messages to Dad: “Dad, come on, tell her ‘no’. Be a man and stand up to her. Oh crap, he’s caving. Dad, for the love of God, tell her NOT TONIGHT!” It was a lost cause. City Boy put his pillow over his head and now simply prayed that it would all be over soon. I’m not sure how old he was, or why he didn’t think to just say, “Hi folks. Yep, it’s me. Your son. Right here next to you, WIDE AWAKE.”
At least that’s what my Oldest Son and Middle Son do. We are remodeling our house and currently there’s no trim up, which means even when the cheap, hollow-core bedroom doors are closed, there are gaps in them. Which means Business Time needs to be handled in a quiet and refined manner. No whooping like a rodeo cowgirl who just won another round. In fact, more than once my husband Shawn — who is stepdad to our three sons, ages 11, 12 and 15 — and I have simply been snuggling and swapping some goodnight kisses when Oldest Son calls from his bed, “Yeah, guys? That’s not happening tonight. I’m still awake, so you can just forget about it.” The other night Shawn and I were right in the middle of Business Time (the kids put to bed a full 20 minutes ago) when we heard the bedroom door open, then close. We froze. “What was that?” I said, staring at the door.
“The wind,” Shawn said.
“Really?” I said dubiously, pulling the covers over me. “Do you really think it could’ve been the wind?”
“Yes, it was the wind,” he repeated dumbly, as if by saying it he could make it so.
“But. There are no windows open in the house, how could the wind have opened the door, and then shut it, Shawn? There’s no way that was the wind.”
Shawn, a high-school science teacher who fully understands weather patterns and physics, covered his head with a pillow.
“Oh my GOSH!” he said.
“We just completely traumatized one of the boys.” I said. “I think you better go see who it was.”
“There is no way I am leaving this room,” he said. Next morning, Shawn, unable to face whichever child we’d damaged, left for work before the boys even woke. Men are cowards like that sometimes.
“So … Who walked into our bedroom last night, boys?” I said while getting them up for school the next morning.
“Me,” Youngest Son said quietly, slinking into his comforter.
“Ugh! Were you guys doing it again while people are awake?” Middle Son called from the top bunk, disgusted.
“Sweetie, why did you come in our room without knocking when the door was closed?” I said to Youngest Son.
“I went to the bathroom, and I saw your light on, so I came to say ‘Hi,’” Youngest Son replied.
I braced myself on the side of the bunkbed. “And what did you see?” I asked.
“I saw you naked on top of Shawn,” he replied.
Oh, dear. Oh,my. Oh, deardeardeardearmotherfreakingdear. That is just not something a boy should see, now is it? I wish I could buy some sort of mental cleanser for the child. I STILL have the Polaroids of my parents that me and my brothers found (hidden in a corner on a high shelf in my parents’ bedroom) decades ago seared into my brain. I fear I’ll be crossing over to heaven, and while other people see fields of wildflowers and their first loves, I’ll see those Polaroids. Don’t ask me how someone rigs a Polaroid camera to take images during Business Time, but they figured it out. So I know how much Youngest Son wishes he’d never opened that door. Thankfully, he has adopted a sense of humor about the whole thing saying, “I’m scarred for life,” which is how we know he’s okay. And he’s assured us that he now understands like never before, when a door is closed, KNOCK.