Closet Helplessness

by Max Carrington

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In the spring of 1999, my parents decided that the family home was too small for the four of us and that they wanted to expand. The addition they had in mind would convert the master bedroom into a room for my sister, the room we now shared would become my own. This was a big step for a seven-year-old. My grandmother would move into a new basement apartment and my mother and father would get a brand new master bedroom complete with an en suite and a walk-in closet.

It was a long process, but after a few months the major renovations were done and there were only finishing touches to be completed.

The house was old and my mother demanded that the new rooms match the others. My father searched for oak doors that he could paint and stain to match the others. Each of the older doors in the house had clear glass doorknobs that were connected in the middle by a bar and sat on silver backplates. My father found enough of the silver backplates for all of the new doors, but fell one short on the double-sided glass knobs. This left my parents walk-in closet with a latch but no knobs.

The spring had quickly turned to summer, and on a bright sunny day, I followed ten paces behind my sister on our way home from school, as she demanded. As we walked up the front steps, I remember noticing that both the silver sedan and blue pickup truck were in the laneway. My father was home from work early.

We entered the house and proceeded to our bedrooms to put away our school bags. I heard my father speaking—loudly—to my mother. I also heard a strange clanking noise as he spoke. I hurried to their bedroom to find my father talking to the closed closet door and turning a screwdriver in the empty hole left for the double-sided knob.

My mother had accidentally latched the door behind her. She had been trapped in there for more than half the day.

My father rose from his bent-over position and greeted my sister and me. “Welcome home guys. It seems that we have a bit of a predicament,” he said as he wiped the sweat from his brow. He quickly laid out some possible solutions to us, but rescinded them just as quickly, “we could take the door off of its hinges, but no, the hinges are on the inside. We could bust it down, but no, I really do not want to have to paint and stain another one.” He continued to fidget with the screwdriver and latch, but it didn’t seem to be very effective.

“Would you just get me out of here!” yelled mom, who was sobbing profusely, curled up in a ball in the middle of the closet floor, surrounded by clothes.

Up to this point in my life I had never witnessed either of my parents so powerless and so vulnerable. My mother, who was the most powerful women in the world, who protected me against my nightmares, who I ran to when it was me who was feeling powerless and vulnerable, was trapped in a closet, in the fetal position, completely broken.

I stayed by the closet door, consoling her, telling her about my day at school to keep her mind off of the situation while my sister and father searched for solutions. About a half an hour passed before my sister came up with the idea to take apart one of the other doorknobs in the house and use it in the latch-hole of the walk-in closet. My father grabbed his tools and quickly took the knob off the pantry door. He inserted it into the latch-hole of the closet and opened it. Behind the door was my mother, now standing, her face swollen and red from crying. She immediately wrapped her arms around my father, and my sister and I did the same.

To this day, there is no knob on that closet door and every time I see that empty latch-hole, I recall the day when my mother was trapped and helpless, and it reminds me that even the most powerful people you know are susceptible to helplessness.