staying inHabit is second nature, or so I’ve heard… if this is true? Well, I have more than enough empirical evidence (if I may call it that) to back the statement. Since I believe in freedom of expression, for lack of a better word, I’ll just give you my experience then you can subsequently make your own deductions…

I’ve undeviatingly been an indoors kinda person, and for some reason I thought it was just another one of my ‘weird’ habits…that was until yesterday when my sisters and I were bantering about the good old days when it suddenly hit me that this behaviour didn’t just sprout on me from the clear blues; it’s an anti-social habit I –with my mom’s help- nurtured unconsciously when my backbone was slowly developing… over the years it has burgeoned into a full-blown thing that I can’t just will away. For me to get over it, I have to do more than just wave my magic wand because it’s as much a part of me as my skin is…staying indoors is who I am.

Long before yesterday, I used to wonder how I got used to staying indoors- when I don’t have errands to run- and like an answer to my age old question, my big sis helped me understand it all.

As a kid, I wasn’t the really playful type. I was more of an introvert. If the friends I hang out with now were to meet my acquaintances from way back when I was small, they would be reading from two utterly different scripts. This is principally because the reticent kid who used to keep most of the stuff in and only said countable words at given intervals has now bloomed into a very chatty, lively lady. But that’s beside the point… so back to the indoor thing…

My mom had this ‘routine’ where my sisters and I had to go to school, get back home, shower, do our homework, eat then sleep… for some reason, playing wasn’t included anywhere in that very busy schedule. We were only allowed to go out when she was home; on weekends. I guess she didn’t trust our neighbourhood, which was mainly comprised of impish teenage boys, who indulged in what they do best: girls and booze. The older girls weren’t left out either; they had drama of their own. I remember this incident where my neighbour’s daughter snuck in her foreign swain in her room and when her mom came home unannounced – she had come back from work earlier than usual- she pulled one of the all-time-favourite movie scenes; she pushed the half- naked guy out through the window. Fortunately it was only a bungalow so I doubt there were any injuries; bruises maybe, but nothing serious I bet. It was fabulously interesting! The things it did to our infantile, active imaginations? We talked about it for months, and everytime the issue came up it always afforded us those lil’ mischievous chuckles.

That was just a tip of the enormous iceberg. Our neighbourhood was crazy! Oh, not to mention that word around was that our neighbour’s groundsman was a paedophile- the kind that lures young kids with candy. Sick! I don’t know how people came to that supposition. However, the thing I remember vividly is that whenever we saw him mowing the lawn we’d scuttle back to the house and watch him covertly from behind the drapes, lest he got hold of us…

In case you’re racking your grey matter trying to find a feasible explanation as to why our next door neighbour, who was a certified nurse would hire the services of a depraved man, well I’ll be more than glad to jump in and tell you why. Maybe my tender age influenced my way of thinking, but in my opinion, even though she had six grown up kids of her own, two of who were living overseas, she wasn’t so fond of kids. To me she came off as one of those grumpy old ladies who find kids a real nuisance; she deemed us as little rejects from hell.

I can’t sum up the number of instances she irritably shooed us off her back porch. But damn, the place was really spacious! That’s why we were so drawn to it, like moths to a light bulb. Her shooing did nothing to help the situation however, as it only intensified our desire to ‘trespass’. Kids have a thing for breaking rules… we were no different. Now that I think of it, she reminds me of Bette Midler in hocus-pocus, the movie; witchy and all.  She also bears an uncanny resemblance to her… I guess it was just a bad case of ‘the hormones’ because sometimes she was really warm; but that happened rarely, you know like Christmas…

I’m therefore inclined to believe that it is for this very sensitive issue that my mom chose to keep us from the rest of the world, or kids if you rather. But don’t be fooled; play we did!

I’ve always acknowledged the fact that my mom’s an impressively smart woman. This was constantly made evident each time she scolded us for ‘ostensibly’ going out to play. We’d try to deny it vehemently but once she stood her ground, not even a major shift of the tectonic plates could move her.

“But mooo…m, we didn’t go out”, we’d plead. She wouldn’t budge regardless. What were her ‘accusations’ based on you ask? Well, we had a lil’ problem: my big sis always managed to sell us out, not orally though. So don’t hate! Thing is, she’s a light-skin: Wakes up yellow in the morning (don’t mistake it for jaundice…lol), turns pink when she cries and every so often her cheeks will also turn pink when she’s embarrassed about something. This colour change was what gave us away always, as everytime we went out she’d get perceptible sunburns… my mom banked on that litmus test to know if we had been out playing and it, needless to say, worked! She couldn’t rely on our house helps, who conspired with us. I’m not sure if they did it for their own good or ours, but they invariably kept mum.

As we grew up, we slowly acclimatized to staying in during school holidays… After clearing from high school, before enrolling into our respective colleges we spent most of the time doing the obvious; staying in! Personally I even managed to write a book. Over the years the habit has stuck, proving really difficult to shake off. So the next time you find me indoors, don’t give me that quizzical look… because now you know why!

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