Trapped in the Closet

What used to be model homes on Old Mission Drive.

The 1990s for the city of Las Vegas, Nevada meant unstoppable growth. It was one of the fastest growing cities of the time, with new suburbs being built constantly. The suburb of Summerlin was built during this time, and the 90’s saw Las Vegas start to inch closer and closer to Red Rock Canyon in the north. The housing development I lived in was one of the last ones you saw before you reached Summerlin, if you were on Vegas Drive. Since Las Vegas is in the desert and builders can’t simply dig into the ground, houses in the area shook as dynamite was used to blast the ground apart to allow new areas to be built.

In my earliest days of us living on Palmae Way in the housing development called Desert Palms (on the corner of Vegas Drive and N. Tenaya Way), developers were working on the housing development on what would become Old Mission Drive off of N. Tenaya Way. Despite its size, it must not have taken them long because in the third grade I met a girl who lived in the development. We became best friends. Her name was Annie.

We did all the typical things little girls do as best friends. Traded candy on Halloween. Played with Barbie dolls like we were re-enacting episodes of trashy talk shows. Writing and illustrating construction paper stapled books for our class. Listening to Kriss Kross and MC Hammer. Sleep overs. Pretending we lived in the apartment complex nearby in order to play in their Club House. And exploring construction sites and the general area around our neighborhood.

One thing we discovered were the model homes in her housing developments. They were there for quite a few years, but I’m sure they are normal houses now. Model homes, for those who don’t know, are a set number of different houses that potential buyers could explore and then decide to have the same house built. That’s how we got our house on Palmae Way.

palmae way Our house on Palmae Way. We had a grassy yard when we were there.

The insides of model homes have a bunch of fake crap everywhere to invoke the belief that someone lives there. Kind of like Michael’s home in “Arrested Development”. Annie and I used to go through these houses and pretend to live there. Most of the stuff was glued down. I know this because I had thoughts of trying to steal something. Nobody stopped us from going in. And you could just walk right into the house; no locks or anything. A couple of times we wandered through a house that had the office attached. Several people saw us but didn’t care. It was quite something if I think about it now.

In one house we were upstairs looking at the baby’s room when we heard the front door open. We looked at each other wide eyed. This had never happened to us before, someone coming into the house. It was a realtor and a married couple. We stood transfixed in horror as we heard them look through the downstairs. Surely they would come upstairs, we knew. Where would we hide? Keep in mind we were about nine or ten.

Come upstairs they did. Annie dashed out of the room and into another one, hiding under the bed. Running out of time, I hid myself in the closet of the baby’s room.

The realtor and couple came into the room and I could hear them talking just a few inches from me. They came right up to the closet door and then…nothing. They didn’t open the closet door, despite being right in front of it! I heard them leave the room and I couldn’t believe I might be getting away with this.

How could they have not looked in the closet? That’s one of the first things people look into when looking at a house. What a bunch of morons! Of course I shouldn’t have thought them stupid, as I was the one dumb enough to hide in the one place they were most likely to look.

I slid open the door a little bit, peeking out and listening. I worried about Annie, but what were the chances of them looking under the bed? Soon I could hear the group leaving. The house had a deafening silence.

Finally I left the closet and went to find Annie. We waited a little bit before hurrying out of the house and far away from Old Mission Drive. But of course, being children, we went right back to the model homes at a later date and didn’t quit until we grew weary of it. So, about six months later. In the photo at the top of the page are the houses that used to be model homes. And I’ve been in all of them, twenty years ago.

I often wonder what they would have done if they knew I was there, besides shit their pants. At the time I thought it would have been the worst thing in the world had they found me. But now I know that I wouldn’t have been in any trouble at all. After all, the place seemed to be so blase about letting children run around unattended on their property. They probably would have just chased me off. Plus, my parents worked so much that they probably wouldn’t have cared anyway. They saved their energy for when I did actual damage, like flipping off my fifth grade teacher, ruining our garbage disposal with some weird concoction of dried oats and chocolate sauce, bringing home failing grades in middle school, and not calling my mom to let her know I was home from school and safe during the L.A. Riots (when riots were also happening in Las Vegas).

Annie and I ended up drifting apart in middle school when we moved in different crowds. A day or two after the last day of seventh grade, we left Las Vegas for good and wound up moving to Kansas City, Missouri in the late 1990s because my mom took the opportunity to work at Station Casino (now Ameristar) in order to move to the Midwest to be near family. We moved into a house that used to be a model home, a house that would suffer from worse child pranksters of its own. Before we moved in, realtors arrived to find a huge rock in the middle of the front room and a broken window. Years later I would find out that a good friend of mine happened to be one of the kids that did it. Small world.

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