Faithful readers of this blog may remember a story of my life a few weeks back that resulted in me getting grounded. Well, that grounding wasn’t the end of the story, it was just a good pause-point. But instead of picking up where we left off there, let me provide a bit of set-up for this portion of the story.
My parents had a home business that manufactured resin plaques. (Years later, they sold their business, and I worked for the guy who bought it.) They had built a small workshop for this business, and a few years later, as the business grew, they built a bigger one. The old shop was a stone’s throw from the house, and my parents converted it into bedrooms for my sister and me. This converted shop became my bedroom from the time I was around eight all through high school.
My family lived about a quarter-mile off the paved highway out in the Oregon boonies. Basically, we were in the middle of the woods, so there was never any fear of intruders. What I did live in fear of was not hearing my mother call me from the house. We didn’t have a phone line out there, so “calling” really just meant she yell at us from the front door. If we didn’t hear her, then she’d flip the power off and on to get our attention. Resetting my alarm clock became an almost daily occurrence.
Grounded from Life
So here I am, enduring my grounding from the previously mentioned events. Grounded to my room for a month. And back then, grounded meant grounded. No phone, no TV, no music. Just me and my four walls. My mother even made me bring all my CDs into the house so I wouldn’t listen to them.
That, itself, was a problem as I had all sorts of forbidden music. Forbidden being defined as anything not from the Christian bookstore. I quickly sorted through all my tapes and CD’s separating the Christian albums from the rest. I stashed the forbidden tunes in a place no one would ever think to look for them, and I brought her the rest.
I suspected my mom knew I had some non-Christian music–Huey Lewis, The Nylons, and the Beach Boys were all bands my dad listened to–so I wisely included a few of those in the pile of music I grudgingly brought to my mother. Sure enough, those were just enough to pass the believability test without getting me into deeper trouble. Bands like Poison, Bon Jovi, and Def Leppard would have extended my grounding indefinitely. And the Huey Lewis song, I Want a New Drug, at least gave her something to gripe about so she didn’t feel like she was giving me a total pass on music I wasn’t supposed to have, even though my dad also listened to it.
I got the intended result. She was not at all suspicious that 2/3 of my music collection was stashed in my super-secret hiding place under the bed.
Silence is Golden
One time during this grounding, my parents were out when I had to leave for work. I was smart enough not to keep any “confiscated” CDs in my car, but I still had the radio. And, of course, I’m going to listen to it. My parents will never know, right?
I leave for work with my windows down, stereo blasted, and tearing down the long, single-lane dirt drive to the highway. Lo and behold, I round a corner, and there are my parents, returning from town. I’m not sure how I did it, but I’d love to see the slo-mo video of me slamming on the breaks, swerving to the narrow shoulder of the driveway, and turning down my radio in one smooth ballet of innocence. If such a video existed, I have no doubt it would be in the childhood getting-away-with-it hall of fame.
Honestly, how my parents didn’t hear the stereo blasting, I’ll never know.
Listening to Paint Dry
When I wasn’t at work, I had nowhere else to be. And nowhere else I was allowed to be. Which meant a lot of time spent sitting in my room staring at the walls, listening to paint dry.
Just kidding, I was always listening to music.
One day I had one of my CDs playing with the volume turned low. Knowing my mother’s tendency to yell if she wanted me, I had to make sure I could hear her. So the music was really low. Barely discernable as music, really. Having it on was a risk in itself. I couldn’t take the additional risk of not hearing her. I did NOT want to miss the yell.
But there was no yell this day. My mother simply appeared in my doorway.
I don’t think I heard a word my mother said. All I was thinking was that my life would end the moment she heard the music. The music played quietly just a few feet away as she talked. And talked. But all I could hear was the music I wasn’t supposed to be listening to.
And then she was done. She said what she came to say and turned to leave. This was my chance. As she walked away, I quickly jabbed the power button on my boom box, shutting the barely audible music off completely.
And that was my mistake.
I should have just let it play.
I don’t know if she ever heard the music, or she heard it, and it just didn’t register as a forbidden activity. But when I shut the music off while she was still within earshot caused a noticeable change in circumstance. And that she picked up on. My stupid act of shutting off the music triggered her realization that I wasn’t supposed to be listening to music at all.
That’s the day my life ended. My grounding became my grounding for life. Well, one month doubled to two, which for a high school kid might as well have been the rest of my life. But I learnt a critical lesson. Sometimes it’s the act of acting caught that gets you caught. And you can’t hide anything from Mom, no matter how hard you try.
Except CDs. It’s quite possible they remain hidden under the bed.