It’s the last thing anyone wants to see in the wee hours of the morning when they tiptoe into the house: a lone figure sitting in the middle of the sofa, wearing a scowl and tapping her foot demanding to know one’s whereabouts.
“Do you know what time it is?” She asks the unlikely party animals who are undoubtedly aware of the hour hence why they are creeping around in the first place.
My parents started at me with a mixture of bewilderment and disbelief. Was this their daughter accosting them like they were a couple of teenagers who broke curfew?
Few nights in my life stand out as much in my mind as that Friday in October 1985 when I grounded my parents. It started out to be such a festive occasion. My homebody parents announced that they were meeting some friends for a late dinner, dancing and drinks at a nearby restaurant and I was thrilled. At 13, I was content to have the house to myself where I could blast music on my stereo, eat pizza, pop popcorn in the microwave and, if they stayed out late enough, catch the entire Top 20 Video Countdown on MTV.
Then something went wrong. I went to bed around 11 o’clock and had just fallen asleep when I heard the phone ring in the dining room. It was my mother telling me that some other friends joined them and that they would be home “after a while.”
“When?” I asked.
“Oh I don’t know, after a while,” she replied. “You’re not scared to be alone are you?”
Well I wasn’t until she brought it up, but not two seconds after I hung up the phone, the house starting rocking and moaning…making those noises houses NEVER make in the daytime. I willed myself to go to sleep, but I was distracted by the things that go bump in the night. I got up to watch some TV but cable decided to have a glitch in their system and I was left with nothing but a static-filled screen. They’re Heeeeere, I thought to myself.
Midnight rolled into one o’clock with no sign of my parents anywhere and my imagination running wild. At 2 a.m., I was standing at the kitchen window staring down the street when I saw familiar headlights swing into view. I bolted over to the couch to take my place, determined to bust them both when they came inside.
“Julie, what are you still doing up?” My father asked in surprise.
“Don’t turn this around on me,” I shot back defensively. “I’m not the one who stayed out all night.”
“But we called,” my mother reasoned. “You never mentioned that you were scared.”
“Oh, I wasn’t scared, just worried about you, that’s all,” I clarified, crossing my fingers behind my back.
My parents hid knowing grins and apologized contritely for their behavior. Satisfied that they would never stay out so late again, I sent them to bed and told them we’d talk about it in the morning. “However, consider yourselves grounded until further notice.”