House of Cards

When I was a child, my grandfather taught me how to build a house of cards.

One by one, I carefully placed each playing card on an angle, leaning against another, in a delicate formation. I was careful not to breathe or move suddenly. The tower of rectangles would grow slowly and steadily, until one wrong move would knock it all down. Then, I would start again, more determined than ever to stack the cards higher. I am nothing if not determined.

That little girl had no idea how the lessons of patience and focus would relate to her life some 30 years later. We build our lives one stack of cards at a time, with care and planning, and then, some fool sneezes and whoosh, just like that, it all falls down. Bear with me, there is a metaphor here.

The Carpenter and I were good parents once. We were attentive and engaged with our children. We even spoke to one another and made eye contact. We got work done around the house, occasionally made meals and we enjoyed hobbies like reading books and tackling crossword puzzles.

All that changed when we got a Netflix account. Now the Carpenter and I are binge television watchers.

Our vice? The Netflix original series House of Cards (See what I just did there? Clever, right?). If you don’t have a Netflix account, you will likely be wondering what I’m going on about, and I do apologize if I lose some of you. Well, I would apologize if I weren’t trying really hard to get my work done so I could go watch episode five of season four.

In two weeks of binge watching this American political drama our flat screen addiction has rendered my spouse and I useless. We skip meals, forget chores, ignore responsibilities, and yes, I even turn off my mobile phone for just an hour of televised mind-sucking drama laced with greed, power, corruption, murder and just the right amount of scandal to keep it interesting.

Now the teenagers who live in our home are concerned. Oddly enough, they are the ones who don’t communicate with us because they have headphones on, or can’t look up because they have an electronic tablet stuck to their faces. They only emerge from their bedrooms when they smell food or sense their parents may be about to share an intimate moment. But now they have begun to wander the house in search of us. Where are the parents? Turns out if the parents behave like the teenagers, it freaks the kids out.

Hey, they ignore us, so this is payback. That’s our rationalization when we know we’ve watched three episodes in a row. I approach my House of Cards just like I did as a child, with focus and determination. We don’t wish to be disturbed. This is our quality time just the way we like it: together without words. Perfect.

Now, the occasional dinner is late. Dishes are left to dry. We eat popcorn in bed. Laundry isn’t folded while its still warm. Anarchy happens, but there are no commercial breaks to take stock, so we don’t. We’ve stacked our house of cards and it’s all good because we’ve figured out how to pause the game console.

That’s right kids, we’ve figured out the Xbox. Cope.


Kelly Waterhouse