When I was young I used to sit in closets.
My parents only noticed that I did so when angry or upset, but in truth I did it often. They only checked on me when I was angry or upset.
The first-time I can remember, I was about 8. The memory seems a foreshadowing of now. I was home from school with a cold, but was feeling better. Though still sick, I was restless and at loose ends. I had read all the books I had to read. I discovered that daytime television was inane. I was feeling creative.
My brother and I had a child-sized table and chair set that was beginning to be too small for us. I remember pushing aide my clothes and dragging that table into the closet. I turned on the closet light, stepped in and closed the sliding doors. I wrote my own book sitting on the floor in front of that small table. If memory serves, it was about the wonders of newborn spring animals.
The closeness of the closet was not oppressive, but comforting – a womb of sorts.
Later in junior high, when I was always upset and seldom creative, I would sit in my closet and brood. A closed bedroom door provoked too much attention, but slipping into the closet and closing the door brought me the alone time I needed. The time to think through my brooding.
My parents didn’t discover my closet hide-out until I couldn’t be found for dinner one night. I remember being very angry about something; and I remember exploding when they teased me about “hiding in the closet.” I couldn’t make them understand – indeed, I probably didn’t even try. I remember childhood as being a time when I didn’t yet have the right words to explain my thoughts and actions. Even now, anger renders me inarticulate.
I puzzled out life in my closet hideout, sitting on the shag carpeting sometimes in the dark and sometimes with a flashlight.
Some time between 8 and teenager, I read C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe — a story about a large wardrobe closet that is the entryway to a magical land where good struggles against evil. I loved the book and I loved the author’s description of hiding in the closet and the surprise of finding it went on and on into a forest.
It didn’t occur to me until just a few moments ago, that at the ripe-old age of 50, I’ve built a closet hideout. Without any guile, I told myself the closet office was to house the computer equipment I couldn’t bear to see sitting on my old oak library table.
Just now I finished writing a thousand words or so on that computer in that closet. As I puzzled out the right words, I would stop and admire the atmosphere of the closet – cozy and hidden. A secret place -even with the door taken off and thus open to the sounds of the forest behind me.
I have this house to myself and I don’t need to hide in a closet to be alone with my thoughts, so I’m surprised the closet office resurrected secret thoughts and feelings- the ones I wouldn’t put words to. What I intended to write is not what I wrote. The piece is raw, but honest, contemplative and strong. It is the stuff I’ve never given myself permission to set out in words; stuff I can only bear to look at if glimpsed through the safety of hands held loosely over my eyes. Tonight there was no frightened peering through fingers.
I’ve surprised myself. I’m anxious and a bit scared of what I might write in that closet. Good battling evil is far too strong a metaphor, but it will have to do for now.
I’m puzzled that in all the weeks of painting the closet, building shelves, sorting through stuff to effect the closet, the memory of my childhood need for a closet sanctuary never burbled to the surface.
Virginia Woolf wrote of needing a room of her own. It seems I need a closet.