Don’t Slam the Screen Door

Phil guides a student through a building project in the early days of Cherokee Creek

Phil guides a student through a building project in the early days of Cherokee Creek

As a child my family summer vacations were spent with my relatives in a small town in east Texas, far from my home in Baltimore. I have rich memories of fun and interesting times in that environment that was very different from my city life.

I stayed in the old farm house that my grandfather built for his new bride…the house where my mother, aunts and uncles where all born, and now belonged to my uncle. The house had huge twelve foot ceilings, a through hall for ventilation and no air conditioning. As in all houses of this type, one entered and left by the screen door that closed via the spring attached to the door frame. 

Since I was a child, with my own very important agenda, I was always off like a flash throwing the screen door open to enter or leave and allowing it to slam shut by the spring. To tell you the truth, I never even noticed the “slam”, but my uncle sure did. 

After about a week of the door slamming at least a hundred times a day, his nerves worn a little thin. He finally stopped me once as I was charging into the house, and I found myself staring up at him as the door slammed shut behind me. For some reason there was a noticeable nervous twitch in his face as the door slammed. He calmly, and it seemed to me with more control than I thought necessary, told me that he wanted me to hold the door as it closed so it wouldn’t slam. That seemed easy enough to me, so I nodded and told him I would. He was finished with me so I turned to go back outside. 

Racing back outside, I was off the porch and down the stairs before the door slammed. I couldn’t be sure because, as I said, I was a child and had much more important things to think about than doors…and I sure didn’t hear anything.  However, my uncle was out the door in a flash (faster than I remembered him being able to move) with a very interesting red tint to his face. This time he spoke much, much louder….

The point is, I wasn’t “doing” anything deliberately, I was simply unaware… something I have since had the opportunity to observe in other children (including middle school boys!). In fact, these days I have taken my uncle’s role with my own kids. It is always helpful for me to have this memory, as my face gets a little red over something that my surprised child doesn’t even realize he’s done. 

Teaching awareness and sensitivity is one of the nicest gifts we can give to our children. They won’t get it right off…they’re just kids being kids…and, as in all things, the lesson will stick if we are consistent and give it time.

 

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

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posted by Shaler Black Cooper in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (2)

2 Responses to “Don’t Slam the Screen Door”

  1. Butch Clay says:

    That’s a good story, Phil. I enjoyed it very much.

    Brought back many fine memories of my grandmother’s house in the country, whose screen door I and my cousins–in our heedless coming and going–slammed and rattled and banged and otherwise abused. With her always gentle admonishments usually falling on deaf ears!

  2. Sandy Affonso says:

    Thanks, Phil. I’m curious… did the second time work or what finally triggered the “awareness” to catch that door before it slammed? I’m grateful for the example of patience that your uncle demonstrated…. and I’m grateful that staff can model that for the boys at CCBS. I’m still learning!

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