My young nephew, Paul, tore his sheets, and then managed to tangle himself in his bedding. “I had to crawl out of my sheet hole,” he said seriously.
What would life be without our sheet holes? One day, a decade or two before my mother changed her name to Mom, my Porter grandparents were giving some big Easter event, and before the feasting at least six of the nine Porter children agreed the first order of business was to abscond with an entire ham. Sadly, the escape proved sloppy, and my future Aunt Jeanne slipped in the pork juice and knocked herself cold. Of course, her brother, Freddy, did her one better, sliding off the church roof during the service, and breaking his collarbone. These were the very people telling me to be a good girl as I grew up. I’m not implying anything about causal relationships, but I did end up in therapy.
My sister, Shara, claims her life is entirely built on sheet holes. Mind, she is the same sister who found her costume pjs wide open down the front during a high school performance of Once Upon a Mattress, so she may have a point. Just last week she misspelled “whore” in a delicate email to some important people in her career path, and as she had her orchestra students choosing songs, one boy said, “You’re beautiful.” Naturally she replied with a very gracious, “Thank you so much.”
“No, the song, ‘You’re Beautiful.’”
When we were kids Shara used to beg our parents for braces to close the gap in her two front teeth. “My confidence is pouring out my space!” she declared. Maybe that was true, but when I look at her sheet holes, I wonder if she was just born with a limitless supply of cheesy grins.
My dad did his share of crawling out of sheet holes too. Back when he was a scrawny South Carolina kid with only a glancing grasp of grammar, he heard someone at school talking about a “chest of drawers.” Mystified, it took him ten minutes to figure out she meant “chester drawers,” which is where everyone knows you put your socks and underwear. He did the tenth grade twice, but when he managed to be the first person in generations of his family to go to college, he headed off to the western United States where everyone seemed to think he spoke a foreign language. In fact, his professor had him stand up and talk to the wall, while the rest of the class had to write down what they thought he might be saying. He owned that sheet hole though. By the next year he was student body vice president, and instituted the on-campus movies that are still going fifty-five years later. Of course, by then he’d fallen in love with my mother who knew all kinds of esoteric lore like “chest of drawers,” so she may have acted as interpreter and facilitator.
As a young boy my dad was visiting a faraway cousin who failed to mention the two of them were in a place they weren’t supposed to be at a time they really weren’t supposed to be there. At the first sign of police, the cousin streaked off, leaving young Ronnie to tear through the strange, moonless woods on his own. Running flat out, he just couldn’t shake those police, and kept getting cut up by the astonishing number of barbed wire fences strung among the trees. He finally escaped, and the next day realized he’d been running circles. That’s a serious sheet hole right there, but not as big as the day he and his friend were setting fire to peanut shells under the town bandstand, and burned the whole thing to the ground.
Fires are bad for creating sheet holes, just ask my brother-in-law. He comes from a military family, and they spent years on base in England, where, unbeknownst to their mother, the kids had picked up a habit of sneaking off with the lighter fluid to write their name in a field, and drop a match to watch the flame whoosh through the letters, and fizzle out. I’m not saying this was the wisest of choices, but in soggy Old England, it had seemed like a harmless lark, no big deal at all. Then they moved to a military base in Colorado . . . you can guess where I’m going with this.
When all the fire trucks and emergency personnel were finally thinking the state might possibly exist for another day, the military police came knocking on their parents’ door. Their poor mother was genuinely in the dark, and protested the family’s innocence with her whole truth. The kids were still wiping soot from behind their ears, but in a dramatic twist of sheet, all of them had come down with a spectacular case of collective amnesia. I never got a clear answer as to how they convinced the MPs.
In a less dramatic example of sheet holing, I’ll close with the sad tale of my sister, Roni and The Unfortunate Morning, but first I must back up a little. After we lost my mother, my dad remarried a nice woman with seven children. Add that to our six, plus spouses and grandkids, and you could use our family photo to illustrate the lost ten tribes of Israel. Needless to say, spending a holiday in a house that stuffed can be a little tricksy—beds and couches crammed together, zones marked out for families and singles, dogs and cats living together, an introvert’s worst nightmare.
We were still early in the struggle with the whole blended family business, when late one very dark night, Roni and her keen sense of direction, crawled into bed among her sisters in the singles zone, only to awaken in the bright dawn to find herself cheek by jowl with our new stepbrother and his bride.
Not as shocking as a wildfire, I know, but still, there’s a sheet hole that leaves a mark.
I know I should tell a sheet hole story of my own, but I figured you’d be tired of hearing about my ridiculous life, so I served up some of my family to give you a little context for my weirdness. Secretly I hope you saw a little of yourself in these stories. Life would be mighty dull if you didn’t have to crawl out of a sheet hole or two, just ask my nephew Paul.