November 15, 2012
Last night I was in the bathroom with all three kids, cycling the four of us through showering and tooth-brushing. Halfway through washing my hair, with the younger two boys splashing around my ankles, 6-year-old Wyatt peeked his head in and asked, “Why is someone knocking on our door?” I couldn’t hear it and I wasn’t expecting anyone; our doorbell doesn’t work, but Marley wasn’t barking, so I told Wyatt he must have been hearing things. A few minutes later, he insisted he had heard footsteps in the hallway. I was still pretty sure he was wrong, but I began mentally reviewing my options:
1. My phone happened to be in the bathroom, so I could call the police… but if Wyatt was wrong—as he probably was— I really didn’t feel like being “rescued” unnecessarily from my shower.
2. We could climb out the bathroom window—it’s not a far drop, I could lower the kids down one by one and then climb out after them without much trouble—but again, we were all freshly bathed and undressed… did I dig through the filthy clothing in the hamper to outfit ourselves first? Or did we just go screaming naked down the streets?
3. We could stay in the bathroom and be noisy and hope that whoever had broken in was after stuff and not lives. We don’t really have many irreplaceable objects that might attract a burglar. Intruders could take whatever they needed and slip back out assuming we were unaware of them while in the shower.
4. I could open the door and verify that there was nobody in the house. But, feeling rather vulnerable with all my kids and no clothing, not to mention weapons, I ruled this out immediately.
I settled on plan #5: Taking no precautions other than reaching out of the shower to firmly close and lock the bathroom door. I finished showering and stepped out, pretending like nothing was wrong for the kids’ sake. I left the younger boys splashing in the tub and the water running to convince any potential intruders that we were oh-so-busy in the shower and there was no reason for them to take any action in that direction. Wyatt was watching me.
“Why is your mouth smiling, but your forehead looks upset, Mommy?”
“Brush your teeth, Wyatt.”
“Is something wrong, Mommy?”
“Don’t worry about it, Wy. Brush your teeth.”
“I don’t want to brush my teeth. I want to know why your eyes look worried.”
THEN the locked bathroom door popped open… all on its own. Yikes! My heart nearly jumped out of my chest.
“Who opened that door, Mommy?”
“It’s just pressure, Wyatt. Brush your teeth.” I closed the door and locked it again.
“Pressure from what?”
“Like when a door opens in another part of the house and…” I trailed off. Oh, lord. Why was a door opening in another part of the house?
“And what, Mommy? What is it?”
So… then I did what any self-respecting, confident, capable, and able-bodied modern woman might do. I texted my husband. Repeatedly. Even though I knew he was in the middle of giving a lecture. I know, I know, I know! But it was possibly (unlikely, but possibly) an emergency!
Aaron very sweetly stepped away from the lectern to call me back. He reasonably and rationally reminded me that the bathroom door pops open when the house is cold and the shower has been running for a while. I didn’t remember that, but I took his word for it (sort of). He notices and remembers things like that; my memory is a sieve in that regard. He then stayed on the phone while I forced myself to open the door a crack and survey the house. I could not make myself step through that door. I decided to call the dog. If he wasn’t barking and his throat had not been slit, I reasoned, the house was safe.
“Marley, come!” I called into the dark hallway.
“Here, boy! Come, Mars! Come on!”
“Marley, let’s go! COME! Come, boy!”
I was ready to skip back to Plan #2 of throwing my children and myself out the window and running, screaming, naked down the street. It seemed like a really good backup option. Luckily, Aaron was on the phone, talking into my ear, convincing me that everything was fine.
“COME ON, MARLEY-DOG! COME!” I commanded.
And finally, finally, the sweet old cur slunk into the hallway. His eyes were wide, his pupils dilated, he was panting in fear, but his throat was intact. His doggy brain could think of no good reason why he might be called into the bathroom: Is there food in the bathroom? No. Might I be forced to take a bath? Yes. Danger! Danger! Dumb dog…
I stepped past my trembling dog into the hallway and flicked on the light. The coast was clear. I listened. There was no noise in the house other than the younger two boys emptying the remaining bathwater onto the floor and giggling. I thanked Aaron and apologized for interrupting his lecture. I quickly went through the house, closing and locking windows and ascertaining that the front door was still locked. Everything was fine. I found that the back door was unlocked, but I knew that was my fault. Our house is small; I would know if someone was there.
I went back to the saturated bathroom to get my water-logged toddlers out of the tub. And then Wyatt began shrieking down the hallway.
“Mommy, there’s a MAN IN MY ROOM! MOMMEEEEEE!!! HELP ME!”
I left Duncan and Milo dripping on the bathmat and ran toward Wyatt, colliding with his naked little body in the hallway. I pushed him into the bathroom behind me and ran to his bedroom. There in the corner of the room. I saw him. A tall shadowy figure lurking in the darkness of the corner. A shadowy, waif-thin figure with… a pumpkin head? I fearlessly flicked on the light switch and was greeted with the one-eyed life-sized Halloween decoration that Wyatt had made out of construction paper. Everything was fine… except my pride.
Although Wyatt spent the rest of the evening convinced he was seeing figures peeking in the window and hiding under the furniture, I managed to keep my cool, comfort him, and take care of the other kids without them ever suspecting anything was amiss. Marley, however, was completely traumatized by the ordeal. He made the logical conclusion that HIS DOG BED IS THE DEVIL. He wouldn’t go near it, except to growl at it from across the room. I finally got the boys to sleep, but Marley would not get settled. I would make him lie down on his bed and then two minutes later he would be up, prowling around the house restlessly, whining and trembling. I took him out. He was still scared. I commanded him to lie down on his bed; he slunk away as soon as I turned my back on him. The more frustrated I got with him, the more he became convinced that his initial hypothesis about the danger of his dog bed was indeed correct. He did not settle down until I pulled a sleeping bag out of the closet and made a nest for him by the safety of Wyatt and Duncan’s bunk bed. (The shadowy pumpkin-headed waif in the corner didn’t bother him in the slightest.)
Relaying these midnight misadventures to the boys in the morning, Wyatt piped up, “I wonder if the whoopee cushions I put under Marley’s bed last night bothered him!”