The Laundry Cupboard
By: Scott Neilson
Like most 3½ year olds, I loved to hide. My favorite spot was the built-in laundry cupboard behind the door of the bathroom in the hallway of the suburban Mad Men era rambler in which I grew up. This hiding place was ideal in many ways. It was floor level so no climbing was required. It was just spacious enough to accommodate my lanky little body. I could crawl in and pull the cupboard door closed while simultaneously pulling the bathroom door open over it. This way, I could be doubly concealed. My mom was diligent about our laundry so there was almost always room for me there.
The louvered wooden cupboard door let in enough light for me to marvel at my Alice in Wonderland pop-up book or carefully examine each fleck in the pale pink linoleum floor. My imagination saw a whole galaxy in that linoleum, casting larger flecks as planets and the smaller ones as asteroids or spaceships.
Climbing into that cupboard made me feel clever and stealthy, like I may be especially well suited to becoming a spy later in life. The cupboard also provided the means to conduct an important experiment called, "How long will it take for the babysitter to realize I’m missing and will she care enough to come looking for me?”
I didn’t realize at the time how profound and common my unannounced hide and seek experiment was. Years later, I was visiting my friend Don when his 8-year-old daughter Shelby came home from school, grimacing. She slammed the front door then stomped upstairs to her room without saying a word. He followed her a few seconds later and I overheard their conversation.
Don: “Shelby, what’s the matter?”
Don: "Really? You seem pretty upset. C’mon, what’s wrong?”
Shelby (clearly upset): “Nothing’s wrong!”
Don (turning to leave): “Ok then. Well, food will be ready in a few minutes so I’ll see you downstairs.”
Shelby (exasperated, as though this should be obvious): "Daad… You have to guess!”
Upon hearing this, I recalled my laundry cupboard and the thrill of being discovered by each terrified babysitter. I reflected on how so many of us continue to retreat to the secret spots in our hearts and minds to run and rerun nuanced versions of that silly experiment throughout our lives.
Let’s agree to stop hiding in our secret spots, to stop withholding our truth and making those who love us worry, find us, guess.
Scott Neilson is a Seattle-based user experience designer, photographer, and traveler.