I was a hide-and-seek master as a child. I could hide in very creative places and I could hold my breath if that is what it took to remain hidden. Interestingly, I was afraid to try for home base because I didn’t want to give away my prime spot. In high school I remember playing some version of hide-and-seek called Capture The Flag. We were at a church youth group retreat. I don’t really remember the rules. What I do remember is that I hid for so long, listening to everyone run around and get caught, laughing while I remained silent and solitary. No one ever found me, and to my knowledge, no one even tried. I finally gave up and went back to the cabin, where the entire group including the chaperones had moved on to a new activity. No one had even noticed my absence, and certainly they had not sent anyone to find me.
Hiding didn’t always mean literally tucking myself away in a wee spot. Sometimes I hid in plain view. One day in my senior year of high school, my friends and I were goofing around in the choir room with some inflatable frisbees I had in my car trunk from the water park where I worked. All four of my friends struck silly poses and someone snapped a picture. That pic ended up in the yearbook, and my friend Celeste wrote “Where is Kim?” out beside the photo in the book. Where, indeed? I was standing beside the photographer, waiting and hoping that one of my friends would notice I was not in the picture and invite me in. Same thing happened in college at a club Christmas party- my entire group was getting a picture made by the Christmas tree and I was standing off to the side, waiting for someone to notice me.
I think I tend to hide as an adult, too. How many of us find safe, cozy places and huddle in there, waiting for our friends, lovers, children, parents, co-workers to come find us and pull us from our isolation? I will sometimes pass an entire workday without a single word exchanged with a co-worker. I am in a physical location at school that makes it easy to just tuck in to my room or theatre space, teach and direct my kids, then just slide right on out. My bedroom is my refuge, and if someone doesn’t force me out, I will spend days tucked into my bed surrounded by books and sunshine spattered salmon covered walls. Travis is always telling me to call someone to set up a date. I can’t. I just can’t.
Leaving the hidey-hole means risking vulnerability. There is a journey to be made between the safety of darkness and the safety of home base. You may get tagged, knocked down, or made “it.” You may risk love and not be loved in return. Even when you are loved in return, there is even more at stake, because nothing hurts worse than pain inflicted by a loved one. You may express yourself artistically and not be understood. You may try a new career and fail. You may initiate a new friendship and be ignored.
I don’t know if I will ever be comfortable enough to jump into the photo or invite the friend over. If Travis is ever gone from me, you will probably find me tucked away like a hermit, reading books and eating saltines in bed. I won’t send out an S.O.S. But if you come find me, let me know you’re around by hollering that old standby:”Olly-Olly-Oxen-Free!”