It’s amazing how much you can see from peeking through a keyhole. As a child, I once watched most of Robert Redford and Paul Newman’s The Sting perched on a small stool on the other side of our closed living room door, leaning in with one eye pressed against the tiny decorative brass opening, occasionally bumping my forehead, covered with blond bangs, against the door handle just millimeters above. The small noises coming from me settling in behind the door for my movie night delight, would reveal to my mother – my mamma – that I was not where I was supposed to be on a weeknight at 9pm: in bed and sleeping.
Watching the adult American film like this, with the excitement of perhaps being discovered – knowing I was being disobedient and naughty – was an exhilarating experience, and I never had a clue then that my mother actually knew all along I was there. That she let me sit there and be entrepreneurial and content about my feat; that she would smile to herself. She later told me that when she felt it was really time for me to hit the sack, she’d make some noise and slowly move toward the door so that it would give me time to run back into my room, undiscovered. Then she would leave the door open automatically preventing any further clandestine movie-going by the underaged.
In Norway, when I grew up in the 70s, we had one government run TV channel and Monday night was “adult” movie night. That’s when both classic and contemporary American films would be screened at 9pm, just one film, once a week. These were the days before the DVD machine, gazillion TV channels – even in Norway – and Netflix binge-watching and live streaming. The anticipated Monday night movie was an institution, just as Little House on the Prairie on Sundays or the Muppet Show on Fridays. Cigarette in hand, and perhaps also a drink or a cup of coffee, my mom would close the doors between my bedroom and the kitchen, and also between the kitchen and the living room so as to provide an extra buffer between the music and voices escaping from the screen during Monday night movies. But she told me later that she could hear my breath and the sound of my rigging up the stool on my side of the door, and then my little body fidgeting on the seat. I remember the small tear in the corer of the baby blue vinyl seat cover, and the smell of my mother’s cigarettes. I remember feeling happy. Even if I only had gotten to watch part of the movie – probably a very small part – it still felt like an accomplishment. I recall falling asleep content to the remote and muffled sounds of the action on the TV, with vivid images in my mind.
The ability to let her young daughters find their own way with enough freedom to give a sense of autonomy, has always been one of my mom’s strengths, and it was an empowering way to grow up. I thought I could do everything.