Living with grown-up remorse
Sometimes I think I was born guilty. I don’t mean that in the Catholic “everyone’s born with original sin” kind of way – particularly since I’m Jewish. It’s just that no matter how old I am or where I’ve been in my life, my instinct is always to feel as if I have something to hide whenever I see my parents. Old habits die hard, I suppose.While most adolescents and teens spend just a few years expressing their angst toward authority, the era of my insurgency lasted an impressive 12 or so years (although there’s a sound chance my dad would argue that the streak is still alive). I wasn’t raised in a home where curfew was taken lightly or ignored (especially since my now dearly departed dog, Roxanne, would faithfully alert all sleeping residents to my lateness violations). But while it was the rule rather than the exception that I arrived home at an illegal hour, I never enjoyed the stolen time. When the witching hour struck, my priority instantly shifted from hanging out with friends to pleading with any car owner to leave the merriment and take me home. During the drive I was always calculating how many minutes had transpired since my curfew had expired. The remainder of the time before arriving at ground zero was passed strategizing how I would slip undetected into the garage, up two flights of stairs and down the hall past my parents’ room. If my plan was foiled by too many creaks in the floor or a bark from the dog, my brain would automatically start preparing survival tactics for the inevitable grounding or worse: the “We’re Disappointed In You” speech.Other crimes of which I was convicted but didn’t (necessarily) enjoy while I was committing include cutting classes, forging notes (my Mom frequently recalls how I would sign her name better than she did), throwing unsanctioned parties and denting cars (mine and other people’s).Severe bouts of guilt were the common threads laced throughout all my transgressions. Some of my friends who regularly disobeyed their parents and withheld the truth never lost a wink of sleep. I, on the other hand, confessed to more misdeeds than I hid. I have always adored my family and knowing full well that I was taught the difference between right and wrong and all the gray shades in between, eventually felt compelled to come clean (especially when the risk of getting caught was probable).My parents are in town visiting this weekend and my first impulse prior to their arrival was to look around my house to see if there was anything I needed to temporarily stash. I mentally scanned the contents of the bedroom, the garage, the kitchen cupboards, the refrigerator the bathrooms. While of course I’m now an adult and can technically no longer get in trouble, I just can’t shake the feeling that I should try and cover up the something I might have done that I’m just not remembering.I’m worried that my dad will look at the various scrapes on my car and regretfully shake his head, thinking I care so little for the first major purchase of my life. I fear my history with fender benders means he won’t believe that with the exception of the chipped paint on the front left bumper, I’m honestly not responsible for any of the other scratches.There’s a remote possibility that my mom will look in my closet and wonder why during their visit I haven’t worn any of the sleek suits, skirts and heels for which we’ve shopped in New York. While I do wear those clothes when I’m in New York and, on rare occasions, in Aspen, I worry that my history of her buying me clothes that I never wore will lead her to conclude that I’m repeating the offense.And although I was possibly the only sober person in Aspen during Monday’s Halloween festivities, I’m still nervous that my parents and I will be walking around town and someone I know will approach us laughing and say, “Hey, the last time I saw you [fill in the blank]!” Thankfully, though, I think the worst thing my parents will leave Colorado with is the annoyance of wondering why I’m incredibly neat in my own home but an utter slob when staying at theirs. As long as they board their flight tomorrow afternoon without having looked on the bottom shelf in the green cabinet in the dining room, we should all be fine.All kidding aside, Meredith Cohen is secure in knowing that she makes her parents very proud and that they secretly love her more than her sister. Questions or comments may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
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