It has recently been brought to my attention that I’m a door slammer. A slammer of car doors, especially. Having lived in blissful ignorance of this fact until now, I shudder to think of the racket I’ve made and the critters I’ve startled during my life. Seems I’ve been a regular disturber of the peace.
I trace this habit of door-slamming to my childhood on the farm, when I practically lived in trucks, most of them rust buckets. As a little girl, I could only close their groaning doors if I flung them shut, with force. Soon, I was flinging without thinking.
After I left the farm, I never gave up my mindless slamming of vehicle doors. In fact, I began to treat other types of doors the same way. I’m now almost sixty years old, and a fairly gentle soul, yet I still bang shut the kitchen cupboards and drawers. Bang shut the bathroom cabinets. Bang shut the paneled doors and screen doors of our 130-year-old house. And, of course, I still slam shut the door of every car and truck in which I ride.
How could I have known that, these days at least, closing a car door requires no more than a nudge? The past few weeks, since this marvel was first demonstrated to me, I’ve been experimenting. Heck, with some cars, if I simply let go of the door, it will fall shut and latch, all on its own. Wonder of wonders.
Slamming doors isn’t the only unfortunate habit that I carried forward from my life on the farm. Another is the tendency to work too hard—or play too little. These are actually two ends of the same rope in a perpetual tug of war, an inner contest that can be brutal. Both sides are strong. Both sides want to win. Both sides refuse to surrender, no matter how tired they get. But sometimes their game surprises me.
Last weekend, I was at a festival, speaking about Beneath the Same Stars and peddling my books. Saturday afternoon, a large family wandered past my vendor’s booth. The youngest child, a cute, curly-haired boy, stopped to read aloud the signage around my display.
His mother and I exchanged a knowing smile at his precocity. He couldn’t have been more than three years old. He reminded me of my son Nathan, who, when a boy of eleven months, was already reading simple words.
“You’re `Author?’” the boy said to me then.
“Sure am,” I said, rising from my chair, wondering what “Author” meant to him.
“Hey, Author—look! I can jump up and down on one foot!”
“Indeed, you can!” I said, as he proved it. “And look” —I jumped up and down, mimicking him— “I can, too!”
The small crowd around us broke into laughter. The boy giggled and ran off into his family flock.
A minute or two later, the boy returned. “Hey, Author—look! I can hold nothing in one hand, and hold my water bottle in the other, and jump up and down on one foot!”
“Wow!” I exclaimed, watching him. “How cool is that?”
I leaned down and picked up my water bottle. “Look, I’m just like you! I can hold nothing in one hand, and my water bottle in the other, and jump up and down on one foot!”
The boy threw back his head and laughed at my imitation of him, then skittered off.
Maybe an hour later, I slipped away from my booth to visit the festival office. When I entered the building where it was located, a voice cried out.
There he was, running toward me across the congested lobby with a souvenir stuffed horse, the price tag dangling from its neck.
“Look!” he said. “I can hold this horse in one hand, and hold my other hand like this” —he made a finger gun and pointed it at the ceiling— “and jump up and down on one foot.”
When he finished jumping, he looked at me. I looked at him.
I’m not into finger guns. And I didn’t have a stuffed horse. The kid had me.
But, wonder of wonders, when you let go and play, things will happen on their own. Just like when a car door falls gently shut without your help.
I put on my silliest clown face. With each hand, I held up two fingers in a peace sign. Then I started hopping on one foot.
This time, the boy jumped with me. With his horse, of course.
For a few precious moments, the two of us were perfectly in sync. I wasn’t thinking one whit about all the festival goers who were staring and whispering and sniggering. The entire world shrank to that boy and me, two playmates jumping in rhythm—
And that, my friend, was a mighty grand slam.