Sunday, March 6, 2011


At 11:55, five minutes before the midnight curfew, I say goodnight to the last teenagers hanging out at my house. I lock the front door and head downstairs for bed. This is the second night in a row of the midnight thing, after a super hectic week at work, and I am pooped.

At 3:15, I wake up. I can hear that the television is still on so I head to the family room to turn it off. I expect to see two or three large football player-ish bodies sacked out on the sectional and on the floor. Instead, there is one small petite blonde head, long hair tossed across the back of the couch, wrapped in a blanket, sound asleep. I look at the girl more closely. She is not a girl I know- not Son #2's girlfriend who is here a lot, and has been known to fall asleep in our family room. It is not M, the girl the boys walked home at 11:30. It is not any of the other girls who regularly frequent my basement.

I fly up the stairs to find my son. He and his friend, W, are in his bedroom playing video games. "Who is that girl in our basement?" I hiss.

"That's W's friend."

"What's her name?"

I don't know. I can ask W."

"Why is she here?"

"She had a fight with her parents and she didn't have any place to go, so W told her she could spend the night here."

I shudder, thinking of her poor parents, who are probably frantic. I remember myself, on homecoming night, when I couldn't find my son until two in the morning (he had fallen asleep in his girlfriend's rec room and was actually fine, but I was terrified). My son, usually not all that sensitive, is very earnest and serious, and totally empathetic toward this girl, whoever she is, that has had a fight with her parents, and had no where to go for the night.

"How long has she been here?" I ask.

"I don't know, since about one. She doesn't have any place else to go."

Again, I think of this poor girls' parents, frantic, worrying about their sixteen or seventeen year old, wandering the streets of our large urban metropolis. I also imagine police officers, billy sticks and flashlights in hand, showing up on my doorstep, to arrest me for harboring a minor.

"She can stay here, if she needs a place to stay, but she needs to call and let her parents know. And I need to hear the phone call."

Son #2 brings W out of the bedroom. "Who is that, W?"

"That's C. She had a fight with her parents, so I told her to come over here."

"Her parents are probably scared to death. She needs to call home right now."

"She's a junior," says W. "She probably gets to stay out late." I point out that Son #1 is also a junior, and never gets to stay out past midnight, unless it's a really special occasion, like prom. And when he does get to stay out, it's never without me knowing exactly where he is.

W heads downstairs to wake up C. While he is there, I try again to help K understand how frightened her parents must be. "And besides that, I don't want the police showing up to arrest me for harboring a minor."

W escorts C up the stairs. "She's going to leave now," he says.

"Where do you live?" I ask.

"Over by * (names a neighboring high school), about twenty minutes south of us.

"How are you going to get there?" I ask.

"I have my car," she says.

W escorts C to the car, then I try again to explain how terrified her parents probably were. And what other choices might have been made. I tell the boys that I appreciate their compassion, and that people are always welcome at our house, but that their parents need to know where they are. We talk about how they might handle it if the situation ever comes up again.

They head to bed in the family room, and I head back to my room.

I wonder if C actually did go home, or if she is still roaming the streets of our very large city.


elsie said...

I am so glad those days have passed for me. I don't miss the worry of where is he, when will he come home, who is calling at this hour? What a safe place your home must be for the friend to offer it to his friend in need.

Ellen Graber said...

You did the right thing, thinking about the other mom. I've lived through that, and the kids just don't understand, until they become parents themselves. My daughter is now 21, and in the country where we live, stay at home university students are the norm. I stopped worrying though, because no news turned out to mean that she was ok.

This must be an international trend because I live in a different country, which speaks a different language. Teenagers with growing pains must speak a universal language and communicate to their parents in the same way around the world.

Wanda Brown said...

It is so hard to know what to do. On the one hand the parents might be worried and frantic and on the other hand she might be in harms way if she goes home. It is nice that your boy and his friend showed so much compassion for her. This piece grabbed and held onto me all the way through. Thanks for writing.

Tammy said...

SO scary and reason number one for living in a small town. If you don't know the person you can always find someone who does. I grew up in a large city and wouldn't trade where I grew up for where my kids grew up for anything. Although I do miss the variety of stores and eating places:)

nf said...

As teenagers we never cared what our parents thought... now as parents, we get what they were thinking! As a mom of toddlers, there are days when I get frustrated that I don't have a minute to myself without kids... I can't image the life with teenagers where you just wish they were home and you didn't have to worry where they were.

Good for you for doing the right thing, if that were your child, you would be appreciative of your actions.

Take Care.