Like any six year old, I never wanted to go to bed at my designated bedtime. I never fought my parents too hard on it, though. I went to bed like a good boy, but I didn’t fall asleep. My head was too full of thoughts and ideas and fantasies for me to fall asleep. I would lie there making up stories in my head or thinking about being a star in the NFL until I got bored with all those fantasies that I’d lived several times over in my dark bedroom. Once I’d finished my mental playlist, I’d quietly sneak out of bed and make my way downstairs. I’d get to the bottom of the stairs and immediately drop to my knees and very carefully crawl down the hallway until I was behind my dad’s La-Z-Boy. From that position I could peek around the corner of the chair without being seen by my dad who was sitting in the chair and my mom who was sitting on the couch. I’d get into position just before the beginning of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Every night I’d get excited when I heard the opening music because that meant that Ed McMahon was about to say, “Heeeere’s Johnny!” which was my favorite part of the show. I always wondered why they didn’t let Ed talk more on the show because Johnny just got up and told a bunch of jokes about people I didn’t know. Boring. Eventually, I would get bored with the show — unless he had animals on — and I would head back to bed and fall asleep.
I kept up this routine for several months. I had perfected my silent crawl and knew exactly how to position myself so that I wouldn’t be seen. It also helped that both of my parents would fall asleep during the show, which made it significantly harder for them to discover me. I had perfected the system and found a way to watch TV until I was actually tired enough to go to sleep. Until one day when I threw it all away.
My mom was in the kitchen preparing dinner and I was roaming around the house with my imaginary friend when I decided (actually, it was a suggestion from my imaginary friend but let’s not split hairs) that it would be funny to surprise my mom in the kitchen. I ran into the kitchen, spread my arms wide and yelled, “Heeeere’s Johnny!” She laughed, paused and then gave me a funny look. I walked out satisfied that I had made my mom laugh.
Later that night, I made my way back to my hiding spot and waited for The Tonight Show to come on. I sat there barely breathing and not daring to peek over at the TV until I heard Ed McMahon. The music started and I held my breath completely. Ed McMahon belted out his line and my dad hopped out of his chair and said, “Heeeere’s Jeffrey!” When I saw him in front of me I froze in horror. How did he know I was there? Had he known all this time? I had been so careful. What could have possibly tipped him off? Then I remembered my moment with my mom in the kitchen. Done in by my own showmanship.
My dad sent me to bed with much less fury than I had expected and I marched back up the stairs to the sound of my parents giggling in the background. At least someone was happy, because I knew I was stuck entertaining myself at night from then on.