I was 7 when I got the fright of my life. I was visiting the twins across the park, which was one of my favorite things to do. There were 8 kids in that family--kinda normal in our Catholic 1970s coterie, but 5 more than we had at our place--and they had more or less been ceded the basement of the house as their territory. It was carved up into a murky warren of bedrooms with interesting lighting, secret doors, paper-thin walls, cigarette carton mandalas and record album covers on the walls. Older sisters who wore bras, brothers who listened to Cheech and Chong, other brothers who were allowed to smoke, a hippie sister who kept a pottery wheel in one of the downstairs bathrooms. Bean bag chairs.
Upstairs, there was a more concerted effort at order. I remember flowers in vases, watercolours on the walls, a sofa that had no toys or Cheerios within 15 feet of it. The floor was clean. The kitchen floor.....was waxed.
Not what I noticed first, though, when I tromped into the kitchen to get a glass of water. As it turns out, I tromped right across a freshly waxed floor that the Mrs had hired someone to do for her, and then back again on my way downstairs. I had no idea until I heard the scream.
I don't think there are caps big enough to convey the decibel level of that shriek. And as loud as it was, the noise of it was nothing compared to the hysterical rage it conveyed. It was as though I had ruined a kitchen floor recently polished by the Nazgul.
I fled the house, fled--as it turns out--the long-standing friendship I enjoyed with the twins, fled the freedom of walking across the crescent park that separated our two houses, fled uncomplicated Halloweening routes, fled the ability to raise the blinds in my bedroom lest She be glaring out her kitchen window at me. As a Catholic schoolgirl, Lord knows I felt watched by All Kinds of Mysterious Powers, but none more so that Mrs W across the park.
And the thing is, she never forgave me. She never called to say sorry for frightening me, sorry that I didn't feel like I could be friends with her kids anymore, sorry that I never again went to her home after having practically lived there for a few years. She didn't look at me when we were at church. She didn't stop in snowstorms to offer me a ride home from school. She didn't offer to take me to Girl Guides with her kids. I was totally, completely cut off. What bugged me most about that situation, other than the fear, was that I knew I would never listen to Cheech and Chong again as there was NO WAY my mom would put up with that kind of language.
Looking back, I guess I can see that she was pissed with me. Probably having 8 kids of her own made her a little less sensitive to anyone else's. Maybe she really felt that her floor was the most important thing in the world. I don't know. Sometimes I can't quite believe that things really went down like that, but you know what? They really did.
The moral of this story is not that I never yell at my Kid's friends. It's that I don't give a shit what my kitchen floor looks like, and whoever wants to walk on it, in whatever state they or it happen to be in, well that person has my blessing. Come on in. Don't wipe your feet.