Monday, December 19, 2016

Hide and Seek

Imagine a game of hide-and-seek. You’re the one seeking; little children are hiding. As you count from one to a hundred, they dart around your house looking for curtains to wrap themselves in and furniture to crawl under. With swallowed giggles, they wait. But what if, after counting…forty-three...forty-four...forty-five…you pause and ask yourself "What was I waiting for?" You can’t remember. You press your head for an answer and the memory almost pops up — a glimmer in your mind of laughter and a set of curtains. But then you get frustrated and give up. And you give yourself a convincing reason why: "I must have drifted off." So you leave.

The children wait. And wait. And wait. Years later, they’re still waiting. But they don’t lose heart. They even think it’s fun. They hold their breaths whenever you walk by, giggling to each other across the hall whenever you pass into another room. Their innocence persists. Their laughter still shines.

And, bored, the children get really good at hiding. They play tag in that place between the sunlight and lamplight in your living room. They do somersaults underneath the kitchen stools. And they realized what we’ve forgotten: that every part of the house is bigger on the inside. One day they found a tiny door behind the living room couch leading to dusty, sunlit bedrooms. They found the hallways inside your walls, the ballrooms inside cabinets. The house is an endless system of circulating corridors, closets, and staircases. For them, there is no outside.

You can still hear them. Sometimes, as you're just about to fall asleep, you may hear the faint sound of children giggling. You can't tell where from. As your muscles relax in sleep, the walls relax too, and the children peek their heads out. They may even run out to meet you as if to say "aren't you coming?" At that moment, you might remember the game you forgot. But you won't in a few hours. For by then, you will have drawn your heart back inside your chest and the children will have gone back into dusty shadows amid the sunlight

There is childhood in everything. Every armchair has bright youth inside it, and each potted plant rings with wondrous laughter. But we can't see or hear the children we promised to find, to remember. We’ve made each thing solid; we can’t bear the open playfulness of light. And it’s your job to let it out. You do that by trust, innocence, and a gleeful hope. If you just loosened your shoulders, exhaled, followed the bread crumbs, smiled, leaped ahead, dancing the whole way, those children would come out. “You found me!” And giggling ourselves, we’d realize that they had found us too. 

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