I don’t know about you but when I was a kid I never much understood or particularly liked the whole privacy thing among adults. I thought it was dumb. I remember whenever we had company over, the kids weren’t allowed to be in the same room as the adults. Oh we might start out in the same room but that usually didn’t last long. The moment always came (usually sooner than later) when we were shooed outside or to our bedroom to play. Reason given: “The grownups want to talk.” I used to wonder what they were discussing and how it could be so private or important that it couldn’t be talked about in front of children. Not that I really cared, most of the time I was happy to get out from under their watchful eye and play. I was never interested in trying to listen or eavesdrop on them but I did have one cousin, who shall remain nameless, that did. She liked to listen!
I remember this one time my curious cousin came over for a visit with her family. We must have been around 6 or 7 and the oldest of the five kids. On that particular Friday evening we had just finished the “Hello, how are you, Welcome to our home,” phase, when we were immediately asked or more likely ordered to go play in the bedroom. My mom led us to the bedroom, got out the crayons and stack of coloring books, then stood in the doorway for a few moments to make sure we were going to be okay. The younger kids began coloring right away. My cousin and I sat at the small play table. I don’t recall what we were doing exactly, maybe playing fish or something but whatever it was I knew we wouldn’t be doing it long.
Once my mom was satisfied that we’d be alright, she sweetened the deal with a promise of popsicles later if we behaved ourselves. She then left and closed the door behind her. I gotta tell you my cousin was good, she always gave the parents plenty of time to get comfy before springing into action. After 10 minutes or so she slowly got up from the table and inched her way towards the door. She opened it slowly and slipped out. The other kids didn’t even notice. Yeah my cousin was deep in stealth mode. That was about the time she gave me the signal to join her. And like the good, follower that I was, I slipped out the door behind her.
Once we were both outside the room she closed the door and waited a few moments to make sure the other kids would continue playing quietly. Satisfied, she made her way to the entryway to the living room. On the other side of the living room was another wide doorway that led into the kitchen. A few feet to the left of that opening was the dining table where our parent sat talking.doorway. We were already able to hear them but not clearly. If my cousin could make her way across the room without them hearing her she could stay to the left of the doorway and be able to hear every word they said and they wouldn’t even know she was there. To get to her perfect listening post she’d have to make here way around a sofa chair and an end table, then about 7 or eight feet of bare wall. Under the circumstances it seemed like a really long way to go just to listen to some grown up talk, but I had no doubt she would make it.
My cousin was fearless! Although the risk of getting caught was extremely high, she didn’t seem to care. I certainly did! If my mom got up to come check on us or worse yet if the kids stated fighting or crying we’d be dead meat! I knew that getting caught spying on the adults would carry a heavy penalty and my dad didn’t hesitate when it came to doling out consequences. He was a spanker and always had his belt ready. All I really wanted to do was go back in the bedroom but that didn’t happen. We pressed forward. Actually she pressed forward. I had no intention of going any further than the chair.
Miss Curious dropped to her hands and knees and made her way slowly past the furniture then slowly stood up, put her back to the wall and inched slowly towards the doorway. I can still see her there plastered hard against the wall, arms out, palms on the wall, looking from left to right then moving ever so slowly to her listening post. She was certainly determined. Years later I would be reminded of this scene while watching John Belushi sneaking into the dean’s office in Animal House. Once she got to the corner of the room she made the turn then stood perfectly still beside the doorway listening. Mission accomplished.
I don’t remember how long spy girl stood there listening it seemed like a lifetime. I eventually got tired of waiting and signaled her that I wanted to go back into the bedroom. She frowned at me but made no move to return. She just stood there listening. I gave her a few more minutes then made my way back into the bedroom. She eventually came back in and didn’t share a thing about what she’d overheard except that they had talked about me. I guess it was my punishment for deserting her. But I didn’t care, I wasn’t interested in the grownup talk, at least not then. They could have their secrets, we kids had a few of our own as well. I was just grateful that we hadn’t been caught.