In the Closet

A few months ago, a good friend gave us a great gift: Table Topics. It’s a simple gift: an acrylic cube with 135 questions inside. When you want to spark a family conversation, you pull out one of the questions and have everyone give an answer. We use it at mealtimes. And when we forget, the girls remind us. It’s been great for our family. It’s fascinating to see what you can learn about your own wife and kids, just from a simple question you’d have never thought to ask.

Laura and I got away by ourselves for a little while this weekend, and one of our good friends from church was kind enough (and brave enough) to watch all four of our girls, plus her own daughter, while we were out. When we called to check in, she told us, “We did our Highs and Lows (another great conversation starter we first learned from a former pastor) and we did the Table Topics; I know all about being an Owens now!”

When we got home, the girls were telling us about the weekend, including the Table Topics…which sounded great, until they told us the topic they pulled from the box:

“What is one thing people don’t know about your family?”

How they pulled that topic on a day when someone outside the family was here, I’ll never know. Why couldn’t it have been a question like, “Tell one way your mom is more awesome than all other moms,” or “What makes your dad the manliest man ever?” As soon as we heard the topic, Laura and I looked at each other, wondering what would come next. “So,” I asked, trying to remain casual, “what was your answer?”

Addison quickly piped up with her reply, “Daddy hiding in the closet.”

That was not the answer I was expecting.

My brain began to race to figure out what in the world she meant. I knew what she didn’t mean. But if that was all she said, our friend could have drawn any number of conclusions…”What are you talking about?” I asked. For the life of me, I had no clue.

She replied, “About you hiding in the closet when the people came to your house.”

And then it started to make sense. She was recalling a story we told her who knows how long ago, and she somehow decided that this was the perfect time to share it…

When I was in college, I lived by myself in a house in my hometown of Tallapoosa, Georgia. Some friends offered the house, which was quite small and priced for a college student’s budget, when I moved out of an apartment that I lived in for three whole days. More accurately, my stuff lived there for three days; I only stayed there once overnight; that’s a story for another day. But God provided this house, and it was just what I needed at that time in my life.

One night, not too long after I moved in, I was alone in the house, talking on the phone (a landline; we used those a lot more fifteen years ago) to a friend. In the course of the conversation, I heard something unusual outside. I asked my friend to hold on so that I could investigate.

I walked slowly from the living room to a bedroom. The lights were off there, so I thought it would be easier to look through the blinds and see what was happening. I saw two figures with flashlights walking in my yard, about 25 feet away. About the same time, I guess they saw me, too, because their walking turned to running. I knew I’d been spotted.

My mind went into overdrive. These two guys want to rob this house, and now they know I’m in here! I was by myself, I didn’t have a gun at that time, and I didn’t have anyone who could get there quickly. So I panicked, and I did the only thing I could think to do:

I hid in the closet.

Now, I wish I could tell you that hiding was part of an elaborate plan, that I was going to jump out at just the right moment and catch the attackers off guard. But my decision to hide was all about self-preservation. As I hid, I did try to formulate a plan, but then things got worse.

From the closet, I heard the invaders make their way onto the back porch. They came to the door, banged on it forcefully, and said, “You come out of that house, NOW!”

I was even more freaked out. This was no longer about a break-in. They had seen me, and they wanted to make sure they covered their tracks. Now, it was personal. I debated what to do as they continued to bang on the door. Should I stay put? Should I make a run for it? I didn’t know what to do. Until…

In a lull between the banging, I heard a familiar sound. For a minute, I wasn’t sure what it was, then it hit me: it was the crackle of a walkie-talkie. As the people at the door talked with the dispatcher on the other end, I realized the truth. The people banging on my door were policemen.

After collecting myself, I opened the closet (which they could see from their position), walked over to the door and opened it. I was barefoot and in a pair of shorts (not underwear, shorts), so they quickly surmised that I was not a threat. Besides that, it was Tallapoosa, and everybody knows everybody. After a minute the events that led to our standoff started to come clear:

The burglar alarm at the house next to mine had gone off. The officers came to investigate, and they were searching the area when they noticed movement from my house. Before I moved in, the house had been vacant for a while, and they didn’t know anyone lived there. So they assumed that whoever set off the neighbors’ alarm had moved on and was ransacking my house. When they came to the door and ordered me out, they thought they were going to apprehend a neighborhood bandit and make the cover of The Tallapoosa Journal. In the heat of the moment, they forgot to say, “This is the police; you come out of that house, NOW!” Thankfully I heard the radios or it might have turned into a standoff, which would have also made the front page of the Journal. As it was, they sheepishly apologized for the inconvenience, I sheepishly apologized for not letting them in sooner, and we said goodbye.

For a while afterward, I slept with extra lights on in the house. Although it was a misunderstanding, my encounter with the officers rattled me, but good. But when I told the story to others–Laura included–they all thought it was much more funny than scary. Apparently, a 6’3”, 250 pound man hiding in his shorts is funny to some people.

So be careful which stories you choose to share with your kiddos, or you may find yourself explaining to your friends just why you were in the closet.