This past summer on a hot and muggy day, I rallied my three kids to venture into the City with me for an adventure. Shockingly my children, ages 20, 17 and 14 were not only up for the journey but willing to allow me to actually stay with them.
A small victory.
So off we went with a few friends in tow, to the Escape Room - a one-hour adventure where you work as a team to "escape the room" within the allotted time using hidden clues and your competitive determination to attain intellectual victory.
Up until this point, I had only read about the adventure-- I literally had no idea what we were about to step into.
We enter the theatrically themed room, eight of us in tow, awaiting direction and the set of clues they will provide us. Much to our dismay and apprehension, the guide leads us into this room, announces that there are clues aplenty, and that we have exactly one hour to escape. That’s it.
Wait! Where are the directions? The list and number of clues we need to find and what the final theatrical number will be when we hit the button, the confetti drops and the doors open to the sound of music and applause? Nope. This is really all on us. As a team we must begin from scratch. But where is scratch?
The doors shut and within seconds Team Smith is working like a well-oiled machine. Our ages range from 14 years to 48 years- and we are all in motion. Truth be told- my "motion" is walking from group to group to see what advancements have been made towards discovering a clue. I am clearly not the brainchild of our team. The rest- boys and girls, teens and adults are working together as I have never seen before.
The first clue is discovered and it is a big one! One leads to the next and then to the next and "we" are on our way. We are allowed 3 lifelines, and I am ready to call one two minutes into the hour. Thankfully, the team kindly resists my temptation and decides it is much too soon to raise the flag. Thirty minutes in and we still have not called in that first favor.
At this point I have accepted defeat in my limitations to add anything positive to our team, so I am sitting back, watching and doing what I do best- actually staying out of everyone's way. As I watch my kids in action, I feel my heart growing in Grinch-like size and velocity as I see what a formidable team they have become. The loud yelling and fights of that morning rapidly become a distant memory. My boys are actually standing in the same space without a single punch exchanged. My daughter, who has just discovered another clue, has called her youngest sibling over to share this discovery. My middle child is not only celebrating, but extolling the intellectual virtues of his bookend siblings for making such a difficult discovery. I am sitting in a closed room with no phones, internet, selfies, snapchats, instagram “likes” or distractions.
We are locked in a square where we all must communicate and actually converse without the assistance of texting. My kids and their amazing friends are social media-free and not considering sharing personal triumphs but rather working the clock together and manually uncovering physical clues with the rare benefit of being untethered to technology.
Thirty five minutes in and we have hit the first bump in the road. All have assembled to decipher the code. Seconds become minutes and the time on the clock is starting to pass much too quickly. A call to arms is sounded and this group, this group of amazing and generous and bright and team-spirited individuals all decides it is time to raise the gauntlet and expend the first of only three cherished allotted hints. Once more I am astounded at how well this group manipulates and evaluates the degree of each obstacle it has encountered. They have successfully navigated when it became necessary to push through and when it was necessary to call for help. There is no fighting. There is no bravado. There is no name calling. My three kids and their friends are working together better than any team I have ever seen. The only things being thrown at this point are compliments galore.
And then it strikes me… I don't want to escape this room. I don't want to escape this moment in time. I want time to halt and to somehow permanently freeze this film. Selfishly, I feel like I have done something right as I watch my children and their friends interact with such compassion and kindness and recognition of one another's accomplishments. I know that as soon as that door opens and we are sprung free, the playful punches will resume, the phones will be almost telepathically turned on before actually even back in their little hands, and this communication that exists at this moment will cease to exist.
But for this moment in time, for these 60 minutes, for these 3,600 seconds, I am experiencing life not from behind the videocamera Krazy glued to my right hand, but in real time, in real life, and for this I am forever grateful.
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