In my grandparents house on 10th Avenue in the San Francisco Richmond District there was a closet located at the top of the stairs that led from the entrance way. The room was no larger then 5 foot by 8 foot and was used to store miscellaneous house cleaning tools such as brooms and vacuums. It also contained 100 pound bags of rice which my Lolo and Lola sell, but the most interesting thing is the closet was an alter which in which the Virgin Mary and a crucifix were displayed.
It was here as children we would receive our discipline. We would on occasion for an indiscretion that would upset our grandparents be exiled to “The Closet.” It was here we were to kneel and ask for forgiveness for whatever it was we had done, depending on our transgression, sometimes we would remain in the “The Closet” for hours, sometimes so long we would fall asleep on the bags of rice.
For me visits to “The Closet” seemed a monthly or at vary lest an bi-weekly ordeal as often when I thought I was being smart or slick, I was not and would end up getting caught by an adult in the house. It never occurred to at that time these highly intelligent, mind reading adults knew EXACTLY what I was doing almost all the time and getting caught doing, whatever I was doing, was inevitable.
For most people spending time in “The Closet” would be a time to reflect on what they had done wrong, that is MOST PEOPLE. For me this was a test to see what I could do to amuse myself in a small space. Once I was so bold as to hide a book within the closet because I knew it was only a matter of time before, “I was blamed” for something [it was never my fault at that age] and ended up in the closet yet again.
There was a window in the closet and if memory servers me right I think it was of stained glass. Outside the window was nothing but a space where you could look down one story and up one story, seemingly escape proof. It was one summer day when put into the closet I discovered that a large pipe ran up and down the entire height of the house. The pipe started at the bottom or what was the top of the garage, which was below the grade of the house and ran all the way to the roof.
It was not long that before I squeezed out of the window and scurried up the pipe to the roof to explore the outside world. I had found a refuge an escape from my punishment! The trick was timing, knowing how long I could stay on the roof before someone came to the closet to release me. The time in the closet was proportional to the indiscretion made or INDISCRETION + SEVERITY = TIME TO BE SERVED. Time after time I would journey to the roof when I was suppose to be asking for forgiveness. I would play with the small pebbles on the roof as if they were sand on a beach, I would sneak to the edge of the roof and look over tossing one or two pebbles on cars and people passing by. It was during one of these adventures I herd the yells, that horrible sound a child hears when he is found doing something so bad that he knows his punishment is going to be painful, a fear so great you cry because you know and there is nothing you can do about it.
My punishment was walking on my tip toes while my ear was being forcibly twisted and torn-off or so it seemed and the shear delight of kneeling on mongo beans till I fell asleep with forehead on the wall from crying.
Future visits to “The Closet” found the window locked so I could not escape for another adventure.
And now; my 9 year old son Jon, is a living testament of who I was at his age and I am the highly intelligent, mind reading adult who knows EXACTLY what he is doing almost all the time and getting is inevitable.