Heart hammering, I hid in the closet.
I heard screams from the hall and pushed myself further into the crush of coats, hand over my mouth to quiet my breathing.
The air was stifling as I crouched in a box of winter hats and scarves. The space was too small, barely large enough to fit the clothes it contained, let alone a person, but there I was. Trying to squeeze in fast, and do it quietly, had been nearly impossible, but I'd slid the door closed just as footsteps pounded by my hiding place.
Then all was silent. I strained to hear a sound - the creak of the floor, the cries of my children, something that would give me a clue as to what was happening outside my refuge - but the stillness was complete.
In the closet blackness I waited, eyes wide, imagining what was creeping toward me, searching for me in the dimness of my home.
Time stretched. My feet began to go numb.
Until there it was, that creak I'd been anticipating.
The creak of a careful foot on the hardwood floor. The scratch of the latch retreating as someone turned the knob slowly, stealthily.
I pressed my lips together. There was nowhere to go as the door swung open and the blue of the twilit house poured into my refuge.
I'd been caught. I grinned.
My son let out a joyful laugh and smacked me on the shoulder.
"Mom's it!" he cried and dashed away to hide.
I tumbled out of the closet laughing, shaking my legs to get some feeling back in my feet.
The game was twilight tag, and I invented it, or at least, invented our family's version (I discovered later lots of people have a variant!) - one long afternoon during Spring Break.
It required little preparation - just a house suspended in the near-darkness between day and night and the patience to wait out bordeom until dusk fell.
If there's prep time, you throw on your darkest clothes as a twilight disguise but sometimes a game breaks out unexpectedly and you are left hiding in a closet in your zebra-print pajamas.
My daughter was here somewhere too. Under the computer desk? Squeezed in next to a toilet in the bathroom? She was pretty sneaky.
Once I'd found her lying across the tucked in chairs at the kitchen table - Only the dog pawing at her head had given her away!
I crept around the first floor of the house, biting my cheek to keep from laughing, peering in the dark places that might conceal a hidden child.
I checked the usual spots but the kids were besting me this time. I pulled out my old defense.
"Hey!" I called into the quiet. "I can't see you, but I can SMELL your stinky feet!"
A cascade of giggles rolled from the laundry room.
Gets em' every time!
I strolled in that direction, squinting into the darkness. As I walked by a window, I saw my son, illuminated by the blue glow, hiding under an overturned laundry basket. Nice.
We made eye contact and he looked ready to bolt - in twilight tag you CAN run away - but he wasn't my prey.
I placed my finger over my mouth and pointed to the laundry room.
Across the kitchen floor I tiptoed on kitten's feet, hugging the cabinets, sticking close to the walls.
Sometimes, surprise is the best weapon. I flung the laundry room door open, hoping to catch someone just behind it, but it banged the wall ineffectually.
I was perplexed. There weren't a lot of places to go in there, and I knew I'd heard laughter. I squinted around the room.
Then I saw her, or at least, the top of her head, peeking out from behind the dryer. I had her cornered!
I sauntered to her hiding spot, where she was scrunched in a tiny gap, perched OVER our kitty litter box like some demented cat.
"HOW did you get back there?" I asked incredulously. Told you she was sneaky.
She started to laugh maniacally.
I swatted her arm.
"Your sister's it!" I screamed into the darkening house, and took off at a run.