By Contributing Author The Major, of Kay Nou = Our House
Bent over, I set to my task assiduously. I had what seemed to be the right tools. But they could find no purchase on the ancient metal. Looking over my shoulder, I issued a stern warning to my child, “Touch nothing.” I then went off in search of a really sharp knife. Upon the return, my wife noticed the implement clutched in my hand and grew alarmed by the steely, determined look in my eyes.
“Why do you need that?” she inquired. The anxiety level rose in her voice with each syllable.
I half-grunted that everything was okay. I then returned to my work. The knife slid into the long-forgotten groove, and with a twist of the wrist, jimmied the bolt a quarter-inch upward.
“Mr. Hammer and Mr. Chisel, meet the hinge sisters,” went the internal monologue in my head. “I’m sure you will hit it off.”
Nearly twenty years earlier, my travels as a military officer took me to a remote installation in the middle of Texas. It was a training facility for new soldiers in the Army. Upon arrival, my eyes were treated to a curious sight. Dozens of privates dressed in camouflage carrying doors of all sorts in and out of buildings. Some of the soldiers were cleaning the doors. Others were oiling the hinges.
Entering headquarters, I noticed two privates carrying a rather heavy-looking oak model. They immediately dropped the thing and attempted to shoot up into a position of attention upon seeing an officer enter the facility. “Carry on, guys,” I said, letting the soldiers return to their strange duty.
I was then greeted by the Sergeant Major. “Hello, Sir,” he stated extending his hand. “We’ve been expecting you. Did you have a nice trip?”
“It was fine,” I returned. “Nothing but dead armadillos and rattlesnakes on the road. But, what’s up with the doors?” I had noticed that none of the entryways contained doors. Naked hinges jutted out conspicuously.
“This is a training exercise, Captain,” he replied, flashing me a broad smile.
Seeing my quizzical expression, the Sergeant Major expanded: “Some of our soldiers have forgotten the importance of the door. They don’t seem to get the fact that a door is a privilege and not a right. With that privilege comes responsibilities, such as knocking on them and closing them properly. We’re conducting this little mission in the hope of instilling some of these values in these young soldiers – the finest crop I’ve ever seen.”
The crusty old noncom uttered this last part with such a straight face that I could not help but crack up into laughter.
Like many experiences from my time in service, over the years the Sergeant Major’s vivid training exercise has stayed with me. Although I have threatened to remove door privileges from my older children, I have never had to resort to this drastic measure. The first two kids understood that I meant business, and that this was not idle chatter on my part. Message received.
Enter my youngest. As with just about everything else, he is different from the first two.
Perhaps his under-appreciation of doors stems from his earliest years. During his time living in an orphanage in Haiti, the entries to the corrugated structures that served as home had no everyday doors. Instead, pretty curtains usually hung down, concealing the interior of the simple structures from the outside world. Hardened steel doors would only be used when hurricanes approached.
Upon his arrival home here in the United States, my guy seemed to spend a lot of time marveling at the simple wonder of a door opening and closing on its hinges. However, we had to teach him that doors are not toys. Open doors invite cold in the winter. They permit household pets to exit and outside critters to enter. Fingers can be pinched, and toes can be crunched. We had to instruct him that a closed door does not automatically permit opening, no matter much one’s curiosity might beckon. Instead, there is an established procedure consisting of the ritual of: 1) the knock; 2) the waiting period; and 3) the invitation to enter.
Above all, slamming a door almost always produces a negative reaction and unpleasant consequences.
The knife did the trick. Now the hinges yield easily to the gentle suggestion of the chisel and hammer combo. My six-year old watches in astonished amazement as the bolts slide up over the top and out of their former homes. When he sees his father lift his bedroom door and cock it backward to maneuver it through the frame, he begins to plead for reconsideration of his sentence. The value of the door has suddenly dawned on him.
The lesson will be learned (we hope). In the meantime, the door rests on its side in storage in the basement for a temporary period of time.
About the Author: The Major is an attorney and former Army officer. He and his wife (and fellow blogger) Running Girl are doing their best to raise a family of five in Western New York. Please visit their family blog at Kay Nou = Our House
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