When our eight children were part of our household, our doors were never locked during daytime hours. It just wouldn’t have been practical.
Even in the winter, people were always coming or going. In fact, in winter, keeping the door shut was a problem. This led to frequent heated discussions beginning with, “Were you born in a barn?” and ending with a reminder about shared ancestry. Bill frequently commented that we might just as well put in swinging doors so we didn’t have to hear the door slamming all the time.
But when night fell and our children were all safe inside, the doors were locked. I didn’t mind pint-sized strangers roaming through the house while it was light outside, but didn’t like the idea of any strangers after dark.
One night when I was tucking the brood into beds, I noticed the older two, who were just past 6 and almost 5 years old, seemed really excited. “Why are you two so happy?” I asked.
They just looked at each other and giggled. I decided to divide them and conquer, so I zeroed in on the girl. She couldn’t wait to whisper her news to me. “Santa Claus is in the basement.”
“That can’t be,” I scoffed. “It’s the middle of summer.”
“Oh, yes sir,” she replied. “We saw him in the basement. He told us not to tell.”
I finished the nightly rituals without further comment and went downstairs to clean house, again, and wait for Bill to get home from second shift. I had time to think, so the words “Santa’s in the basement” and “He told us not to tell” bounced back into my brain.
When I called my neighbor with this news, she sent her husband over to go through the basement with me to make sure that if Santa had been there he was gone, and then I locked every door very carefully.
During the teen years I sometimes felt like we were running a teen center. The kids who had played in the backyard had moved to the lot on the side to work on cars, and they had been joined by other friends.
One day, when Bill and I were each reading in the living room, a young man walked in the front door and made his way through the house without saying a word. He returned to the living room and said, “What is this? Do you just let anybody walk through your house?”
“Pretty much,” I said as I looked up to see a cousin from Pennsylvania who hadn’t visited for years. We welcomed him, and he marveled at our open-door policy.
Now, that has all changed at my insistence. We keep the doors locked all the time. Bill always has at least one door key in his pocket, and when I leave the house I take my purse and door key with me. No problem, until last week.
It seems there are some disadvantages to having a new attached garage with locks that are always locked from the outside.
Last week we had some problems with the new car, which was sent out for repair. Bill drove the other Jeep out to find out what the problem was and when we would get it back.
When he left he closed the garage door as is his habit. I did love those remote openers. However, I was outside when he left. I even waved goodbye.
Imagine my surprise when I tried to get back into the house. Every door was locked – as I insisted. But, I was on the outside, looking in.
No need to panic I reminded myself, he wouldn’t be gone long. Hey, I actually had some “free” time. I didn’t know how much because I didn’t have my wristwatch.
I used the bonus time very wisely. I deadheaded some flowers, and I wound some morning glories around a pole. Then I sat down in a rocker on the front porch and watched the cars go by.
It was very relaxing.
I may have to lock myself out more often.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate on Aug. 11, 2004.