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Cheryl Hughes: Open and Shut Case

My Career As A Woman

There’s a tee shirt I’ve got to have.  It reads: I Have CDO  It’s Like OCD  But The Letters Are In Order.  That pretty well sums up my attitude on a whole host of topics, and none more so than the subject of closing doors behind me (physical doors, not metaphorical ones).  Like many things in my life, I can trace this particular obsession back to an experience from my childhood.

My half-brother Carl was born when I was barely six years old.  He seemed a bit accident prone from the beginning, falling off beds, getting his fingers caught in doors, those kinds of things.  When I was assigned to watch Carl, I would usually set him in the center of the floor, with nothing dangerous within reach (he wasn’t crawling at that time), and just stare at him.  Even this strategy wasn’t fool-proof.  Once, while just sitting there, he fell over on his face and received a nasty bump to his forehead.  I had a hard time explaining that to my stepmother. 

As Carl got a bit older, my stepmom put him into what was called a trailer-tot.  It’s similar to the modern-day walker, but it was made from metal and it had running boards and a handle so it could be converted into a stroller.  Carl was happily mobile, which made me happy, because I didn’t have to worry about him getting hurt—or so I thought.

We lived in a small house in Mt. Washington, Kentucky, at the time.  There were three bedrooms in which to accommodate a set of parents and six children (my younger brother, Mark, had yet to be born).  Mom and Dad slept in a room with a crib to accommodate Carl, Marsha and Mona slept in a room, and Lorrie and Rhonda slept in a room.  I was the odd man out, so I slept on the couch in the living room, and a few years later, on a fold-out cot in the hall.

 We had a living room, a bathroom and a kitchen.  A door off of the kitchen led to the basement stairs.  Besides being the laundry room, the basement was the domain of my two younger sisters and mine.  It was where we played without adult interruption.  We were constantly running up and down the stairs, taking bathroom breaks and stopping off in the kitchen for Koolaid.  My stepmom’s voice could always be heard admonishing us to, “Be sure to shut the basement door, Carl’s in his trailer-tot!” On one such trip upstairs, either I didn’t hear my stepmom or I tuned her out, because I left the basement door open.  I was in the bathroom when I heard the sound of Carl’s trailer-tot bouncing down the basement stairs.  He was screaming, my stepmom was screaming, all four of my sisters were screaming, the dog was howling—you get the picture.

 I expected my stepmom to tear into me.  I wasn’t disappointed.  What I didn’t expect was the reaction of my sisters.  They were furious with me, and I was ostracized from the family for the rest of that day.  No one wanted to be in the same room with me, so I spent the rest of the day hiding outside.  When it was time for bed, I crawled under the blanket on the couch without much notice, dreading the following day.

The next day, however, I was back in the family’s good graces, and life continued as it had before.  Carl seemed no worse for the wear, and today, he is the dare-devil driver in the family, an attribute for which I take full credit.  Most people are afraid to ride with him when he drives his big log truck.  I hate to admit it, but, on a couple of occasions, I’ve found myself holding onto the door handle, bracing to bail out of the truck in the event that he misses the curve and we go plunging over the cliff into the river below.

As for me, I always close the door behind me, any and every door.  The closet door, cabinet door, bedroom door, bathroom door, even the Little People door on the Little People house that my granddaughter leaves in the living room floor.  I close doors behind other people too, especially my family.  I find it ironic that I married a man who never closes a door.  I can always tell when Garey has been foraging for food in the kitchen.  Every cabinet door is standing open, and the silver ware drawer is left pulled out.  Sometimes, when we’re riding around over the farm, I’ll hear his driver’s door rattle around, because he didn’t close it all the way.  If I say something to him about it, he just says, “I think I can catch myself before I fall out.”  (One day, he might not, and I’ll probably be accused of running him over.  Just remember, you’re my witness.  I tried to tell him.)

Every night, before I go to bed, I check every door to make sure it is closed and locked.  Garey thinks I’m nuts for doing this, but one night, out of the goodness of his heart, he told me he would lock all of the doors.  I drug my weary bones to bed, and when he came to bed a few minutes later, I asked, “Did you lock all of the doors?”

“Yes,” he said, a bit annoyed that I had asked.

“Even the utility room door?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered, even more exasperated.

Ten minutes passed before I got out of bed.
“Where are you going?” he asked.

“To check the doors,” I answered, “I have to, I’m a checker.”

“Yeah, and one day I’m gonna crown you,” he said.   


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