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The NSA could really learn a thing or two from The Mom and her ability to know exactly what’s going on, or what you’re up to, at any given moment.

This ability, I do believe, was honed when we were small. More often than not, as I remember, we were home sick from school. And The Mom would have to go out and run a few errands – upon reflection, I fear that this may have been a euphamism for ‘I need to get away from You People (as we were collectively known) for at least two hours or I know not what I might do’ – but off she would go, into the depths of the supermarket or the pharmacy or wherever it is mothers go to hide from their families in the afternoon. And the moment she left the house, relieved of the burden of feigning illness, Crazy D and I would sprint to the hardest to reach cupboards in the kitchen and Your Father’s home office, also known as The Den, in search of contraband.

Now, let it be said that we were not looking for anything in particular, just for Something We Couldn’t Have. We weren’t choosy, we just wanted something, anything, that was generally verboten. It could be cookies, chocolate, salted nuts, anything, it didn’t matter. As long as we had it. We didn’t even need to like it – as, to this day, I’m still not crazy about chocolate, but if I can’t have it, then have it I must.

The Mom would arrive home, and take one look at us, put her hands on her hips before even removing her coat or boots and say something like, “What did you do?”

The Mom will tell me now, when I recount such tales, that she knew just because we looked guilty. But I feel fairly confident in saying that guilt was our default expression. We spent a lot of time, put in a lot of effort, made serious inroads in our work to do everything we were not meant to. Surely this is the point of childhood, to learn what you can and cannot get away with. We may have been terrible at school work, but our extracurricular activities were stellar.

“Nothing,” was always our response. Admit nothing, and negotiate from there. This tactic has, I believe, served us well into adulthood.

The Mom would, upon being greeted with what was probably an obvious lie, casually glance around the kitchen (most of our childhood was spent in the kitchen) and see if something was amiss.

We would’ve taken great care in making sure everything was put back in its right place. But she knew. She always knew.

Same thing goes for Christmas presents. One year, Your Father had taken the initiative to hide things from our prying little eyes, in the room in the basement where he made his ‘wine’. The door was locked, but, owing to the parental lust for all things antique, it had a small window at the top, which could be opened with enough effort applied.

The door was quite tall and we were quite small. But somehow, Crazy D and I managed to manouevre ourselves in there. The gifts were wrapped. We had had an extraordinarily large window of time to get our work done, so we unwrapped, perused, re-wrapped and got ourselves out of the room again, leaving, we thought, no trace behind.

But The Mom knew. And so, come Christmas morning, when we knew we would finally be allowed to play with the toys that had been waiting for days, weeks, we shuffled downstairs in the middle of the night, confident in our recent spate of good behaviour to feel able to call 4am morning.

And there was nothing under the tree. The Mom, bleary-eyed but wiley as ever, stood there in the gloomy dark, in her peach bathrobe, hands on hips.

“Hmmm, I see Santa hasn’t left anything for you.”

The problem here of course was that we couldn’t admit to knowing what we were meant to be getting and thus decry its absence.

“Maybe he’s running late, it’s early you know,” one of us would suggest.

“Or maybe Santa knew you were bad.”

“WE have been very good.”

“Really?” The Mom moved forward, closing in on us. “Because I happen to know, you weren’t.”

She never did tell us how she knew we’d got in there, though I do believe in later years when we told the story, she did congratulate us on our physical skills, it was no mean feat to get in and out of that room.

But anyhow, the point is, The Mom knew all that without having to spy on us electronically, without having to collect our metadata or whatever. And she made great inroads into our ways. If only the NSA would go back to this sort of hands-on, old school type of information gathering. OR maybe the NSA should just hire a bunch of mothers, because then there’d be no way of keeping any secrets again.

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