Stupid Parents

My 1962 Bethesda bedroom was pretty comfortable, except on the bitterly cold pre-dawn winter mornings when my frugal father’s incessant fiddling with the thermostat turned the entire house into an arctic black hole. But, because my restless mother constantly rearranged, redecorated and rifled through it when my back was turned, my pretty comfortable bedroom wasn’t particularly private.

In our creepy dark basement, I curtained off the space under the stairs, creating a cozy nook into which my 12-year-old self could escape the stupid parents of my angst-riddled adolescence.

I padded my cell with Dad’s scratchy old wool pea-green army blankets and some musty feather pillows covered in ticking. I filled it with piles of beloved books, stacked my treasured 45-rpm records next to a portable record player, and tossed in a flashlight against the eventuality that the single hanging light bulb would suddenly spark and blow, leaving me petrified in the pitch dark.

One afternoon, following yet another squabble upstairs, maybe an argument over whether I would ever be allowed to shave my furry legs, the bane of my young existence, I retreated to my hole. I emerged when my peeved and indignant pre-teen self decided to search through all the boxes of important stuff stored in the basement, determined to find adoption papers proving that I wasn’t related to the stupid parents with whom I had absolutely nothing in common.

I was disappointed when instead of adoption papers, I discovered my birth certificate, but during that fevered hunt for a fairy tale family, I knew in my heart of hearts that my parents were my parents and that my search for adoption papers proving otherwise was futile.

Confirmation of my origins is my father’s face mirrored in my mustachioed one. My young friend and I perform a skit against the backdrop of my curtained room under the basement stairs, while out of frame, my not-so-stupid-after-all parents applaud earnestly from the VIP seats next to the washing machine.