01 August 2008

Scary Things, Deep Things

Just over a month ago, Maddie, Riley, and I got locked out of the house. OK, to be fair, it would be more precise to say that I locked us out of the house. Accidentally, of course. All's well that ends well, and the whole situation turned out to be an adventure and a lesson in resourcefulness. I was never panicked or even all that worried that evening. The three of us were together and safe, and we had plenty of friends in the 'hood to help us out or even take us in for the night. 

I was much, much less cool two nights ago. The kids and I got home from an evening at the park (an evening during which Riley had eaten one too many oranges slices at once, gagged, and puked up a portion of his dinner) and climbed the stairs to the house. I unlocked the front door, dumped our stuff in the hallway, hung my keys in the pegboard (FORESHADOWING!), and grabbed two canvas bags to bring in our milk, which had been delivered that day. Maddie busied herself with taking the ice packs out of the milk box and helping me load the milk into the bags. Riley decided to play Hide, a favorite game that involves going inside, closing the front door, and yelling, "I hiding!" until someone comes to open the door and cause gales of laughter.

I heard Riley yell, "I hiding!" and thought nothing of it; Maddie and I finished packing up the milk and I picked up the bags to go find Riley and bring the milk inside.

The door was locked.

Riley had not only shut the door, but he had slid the deadbolt.

I totally freaked out. My phone was inside.  My keys were inside. Riley was inside. Shit.

Luckily, my neighbor was home and he has a key, so it really should not have been a big deal. I rang and rang and rang his doorbell, but no one came down. In my addled state, it did not occur to me to, oh, bang on his front door with my fists. Instead, I started screaming, "Ray! RAY! RAAAAAAAY!" at the top of my lungs. Maddie joined in and yelled, "Ray!" too. I pleaded with Riley to flip the lock, but I don't think he could really hear me over his crying, nor do I think he really understood what I was asking. I kept screaming, and finally Ray appeared. "I need my house key as fast as you can get it," I barked. In a few seconds, he was back and Riley, Maddie, and I were reunited.

I doubt the whole incident even lasted five minutes, but it felt like forever. It was absolutely terrifying to be separated from Riley like that, unable to get to him and reassure him that everything would be OK. It was brief, but awful. Again, all's well that ends well, but this time, getting to the end was much more traumatic.

Last night, I took the twins out for dinner. We went to the local Mexican place, since they usually have mariachi on Thursday nights. The band had cancelled, but we still had a fun dinner. Maddie and Riley are quite well behaved in restaurants, and they love Mexican food, so it was all good. I don't often take them out to eat when I'm on my own, but this was a good reminder that I can do it and that it can be a lot of fun.

This restaurant provides crayons and paper for the kids to doodle while they wait for their food. Usually Maddie and Riley eschew the drawing in favor of cramming themselves full of chips. Last night, however, they decided to scribble.

When Maddie was done with her picture, she handed it to me. "Here you go, Mama," she said. "This for Daddy."

"For Daddy?"
"Yes, for Daddy."
"OK, sweetie, we'll save it for Daddy. Maddie, where is Daddy?"
She looked at me like I was a total moron. "Daddy at home."

When her dinner came, she started eating, then she paused and carefully put some black beans and rice into a bowl intended for salsa. She clearly had a plan, and precisely scooped rice and parceled out beans, then stirred it all together. Once her work was done she announced, "This Daddy food!"

"Do you want to eat that, love?"
"No, that Daddy food."
"Do you think Daddy likes rice and beans?"
"Yes, that for Daddy."
"OK, well leave it there for Daddy."

She wouldn't let the server take it away when it came time to have the plates cleared.

This morning, Maddie pitched a fit about something that seemed really small to me; I don't even remember what it was. She was sobbing in her carseat. I asked her what I could do to help.

"See picture Daddy!" she wept.

I have in the car a picture of me and John, taken the summer of our first anniversary at the wedding of a friend. It's not a great picture of either of us. John was on medication that caused him to retain water and lose his hair. His face is puffy, his head shiny bald. I just look like I always did when John was sick: tired, drawn, stressed-out, the same way I look now. Of course, Maddie doesn't care. I handed her the picture and she pointed at John. "That Daddy! There Mama." She calmed right down.

She wouldn't let go of the picture. She took it to school with her. 


Terri said...

That was beautiful. I can't articulate it any better than that. My mom passed away in February (from Pancreatic Cancer) and I have photos of her in every room. Somehow it comforts me (a bit) to see her everywhere.
Thanks for sharing your journey.

Watercolor said...

hugs. Hope today is less traumatic for everyone.

Mama Nabi said...

oh... Maddie... I wish I could give her a big hug right now.

Our new apartment has those doors that click shut and lock - I am so afraid that this will happen to us so the first thing I did was teach LN how to unlock the doors. (inside doors - the outside door needs good yanking so I think I am safe for now...)

Anonymous said...

Wow - your life is a lot more intense than mine is.

You put those two stories together - I wonder if they're connected for Maddie. It must not have been easy for her to see you so upset and unable to comfort Riley when you were locked out. Maybe she's still reacting to that. I know I still have a strong visceral reaction when I see my mother upset. She's the one who's supposed to keep everything copacetic, right? (And I'm 35!)


Anonymous said...

Once my mom locked my son inside the house for like 30 minutes. OK. To be fair, the baby locked the door, after she closed it. but still. i was very very pissed. only found out about it afterwards though. she ended up calling 911 from a neighbor's house. the firemen broke into our house through a window.

Wabi said...

Argh. One of my kids locked me out of the house once, leading to a similar traumatic, frantic shout out for neighbors with keys. Now I keep an emergency front-door key hidden under the backyard birdbath. Of course, since the key is there, I've never had to actually use it. (Go figure.)

Maddie sounds like such a sensitive and aware toddler. That's wonderful, but hard, too. I'm sorry for all the "Daddy arrows" to your heart of late.

Rachel said...

So scary! I'm glad everything turned out okay.

The story about Maddie is so sweet. She must be able to sense his presence somehow. The way she saved food for Daddy reminded me of the Korean tradition of preparing food for someone who has died. I like the idea of honoring the dead with a ritual like that.

Julia said...

Oh, Maddie... Somehow I think you are in for many more Daddy discussions in the near future.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say, other than that it is heartbreaking to read.

You are admirable, but then I don't suppose that circumstances gave you much choice in that, either. You just have to be, for Maddie and Riley.

A stranger, wishing you well on your journey,


Betty M said...

It makes my heart ache to read about Maddie talking about her father like that. My nephews were older when they lost their dad 2 years ago and it is quite rare to hear them talk about him spontaneously - the older one (now 11) in particular bottles it all up.

BrooklynGirl said...

Oh, honey. You're such an amazing writer and that's such a touching story.

Anonymous said...

My heart is breaking, I'm crying... I have goosebumps. Maddie is such a sweet, special little girl, and John is right by her side.

Glad the locked-out episode didn't last too long, although I'm sure it was long enough.

Big, big hugs to all of you.

Keen said...

I don't know what to say except that Maddie simply amazes me. Emotionally, she just seems so much wiser than a two-year-old.

Poor Riley, and poor you. Glad things worked out OK in the end, but I know how two minutes can seem like a lifetime. I've had a couple of traumatic incidents with Primo lately, one of which made me think of Riley's tumble down the stairs. He fell right off the top of a tall play structure and my reaction was to scream, "SHIT!!" repeatedly, at the top of my lungs--we were at a church playground, too.

django's mommy said...

What a remarkable girl your Madeleine is.

I'm sorry to keep bleeding my grief stories in your blog comments, but my 3 year old pitched a fit tonight because a friend came to pick up our hammock (there is no way I will ever use it again). He was hysterical because he needed the hammock 'when Daddy comes back'. Stupid mama had totally forgotten about the video of him & Daddy in the hammock. Clearly he has not.

buddha_girl said...

Cripes, I'm crying here. Maddie is definitely in tune with John's spirit. I love that.

One of my nieces saw my Dad every day of her life. When he died, she was five and took to sleeping with a picture of him, frame and all, when she went to bed.

Riley: Sheesh. Panic city. I'm so glad Ray was home and you were able to get to Riley quickly.

tree town gal said...

Didn't have a moment to comment first time reading this beautiful, heart-wrenching post.... tearful again upon rereading it. Oh, Maddie baby... what a soul. And Snick, what a way to end the week. Your head must be spinning. Sending you love and support, you incredible momma. It is wonderful how you "allow" the kids to stay connected to their Dada. My father died just after I turned 7 yrs old and I felt like he was shut out of my life in every way. It must be impossibly hard but you are doing an amazing job at giving the kids a link to John.

Kerrie said...

Oh...Maddie...my heart breaks for her...and you too. It must be both heartwrenching and comforting to have Daddy conversations with her. What a beautiful, sensitive soul she is.

I'm glad the lockout ended well, I shudder to think of the what could have beens. Poor Riley, so frantic...those minutes must have seemed like forever.

Hope your weekend is gentle and restful.

Cynthia said...

What a sweet little girl you have there. I think you are doing an amazing job with your children - they are very lucky to have you.

Also, my 3-year old locked me and the twins outside very recently. My heart literally stopped for the 2 minutes we were separated. Thankfully there was enough glass on the door that we could still see each other. But still...so scary!

Little Read Hen said...

You handled the lockout really well. My daughter did the same thing to me and our spare was gone. I had to wake up the upstairs neighbor. Granted it was like two in the afternoon, so I'm not so sure why he was sound asleep. When I was three I locked my sister in the house while my mom was cleaning up some toys in the yard, in the rain, in Seattle after church in church clothes. My sister was maybe 15 months old, but not walking. I had been instructed to stay with her, but they were my toys and I was in trouble for having left them in the yard...so I went out to help. When we got back to the kitchen door my sister was sitting on one side and we were locked out in the rain. There were no cellphones and my grandparents (who lived next door) were still at church. My mother couldn't find the spare that my dad was always moving from place to place, so she figured the best thing to do was break plate glass kitchen door and get to my sister asap. (My sister who was non-mobile and pretty contendedly sitting on the floor.) So she got a brick from the walkway and went to throw it through the door. Then realized that she could hit my sister with the brick if she let it fly, so clear headed calm cool and collected person that she is held onto the brick and threw her fist through the glass. She proceeded to bleed all over everything and use up every towel in the house and then get sent to the psych ward at the hostpital for attempted suicide or something because of the way the glass sliced her arm.

I doubt anyone would even remember the episode if she had just waited for someone to come home with a key and talked to my sister through the door.

I would say you did better than that. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

it sounds like the incident with Riley really scared you (of course). You did well. My aunt locked her grandaughter in the house, in her highchair. Apparently this happens.

Maddie -- wow.

Vacant Uterus said...

Oh, Snick. *hugs*

Lisa said...

I got locked out once too. My 3 yr old was with me and my less than 1 year was asleep in her crib. I went to a neighbors house to call my dad to bring my spare key. After that, I have a key outside, well-hidden...and I have used it a few times.

As for Maddie...they say children can see things we can't. I would take comfort, thinking that she can see daddy where you can't.

Big hugs for you all!

Kellie said...

Wow - Maddie!

So sorry about getting locked out with Riley in the house. That would be scary, so glad that everything worked out.

The McMommy said...

I got nothing else.

T & J & V said...

I know your neighbor has a key but have you thought about having a hidden key, either on your house or even under your car bumper? We had one when I was growing up and it came in handy more than a few times and sounds like it could help you guys out too. I am already worried about my little one doing that to me soon too, he is getting pretty close to reaching the lock!

gwendomama said...

good for you honey, good for you.
when elijah died, i made a book for supergirl right away. any picture i could find of just him or him with her, i printed out large, laminated, and put on some of those silver notebook rings. she still brings it in to show and tell once a year.

your baby can have access to that whenever she wants. i think it also helps them to remember with picture at that age, not just words.

Sylvie said...

Sweet little Maddie. Children definitely remember the feeling of love.

Becky said...

What a rough combination of events. Here's hoping this week is easier. ((HUGS))

Karyn said...

Oh, Maddie breaks my heart. She is verbalizing her feelings so well and is so in tune with what she needs, which really is lucky for both of you. What a sweet little girl whose daddy is still so real for her.

Anna once put the dowel down to lock the sliding glass door to our backyard. She was like 18 months--she could see me, I could see her, but I couldn't get her to pick the dowel back up so I could come in. I ended up breaking a screen on another window and climbing in to her. I'm glad your neighbor was there to rescue you guys with a key!

Anonymous said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes - I can only imagine how it must ache to hear Maddy speak about her father, but you are giving her such a gift to permit her the space to talk about him.

My mother died suddenly almost three years ago - she was a very integral part of my then-four year old daughter's world. I'm still amazed at the remarks she comes up with as she continues to process the death - usually complete non-sequiturs that are so poignant and beautiful. If you can hold on and listen, they're like gifts, reminding you that your loved one is still very much alive in these little people.

My son (then age 20 months or so) once spent thirty minutes staring out a window at me while I sat right on the other side of the glass, after he had locked himself in the house and we waited for a family member to arrive with a key. Some of the longest minutes of my life!

another karen said...

i like what the last commenter said -

"If you can hold on and listen, they're like gifts, reminding you that your loved one is still very much alive in these little people."

what a beautiful thought.

what a beautiful little girl...

Lunatic Mapmaker said...

I'm seriously unsure why this hasn't happened to me yet. I've had two close calls since Penelope has been nimble enough to lock doors.

Oh, yeah...it's the sledge hammer I keep in the trunk of my car. That's how I got in last time.

mek said...

Oh - the first story, scary, stressful. The second one - oh, so sweet and sad. At my daughter's daycare each child has a little photo album of her or his own with family pictures, and I often see just-dropped off kids sitting with their books, comforted by the pictures.

Lori said...

I'm giving our neighbor a key TONIGHT. Scary!

It has to warm your heart and break your heart at equal measure to watch your kids grieve their dad. I'm so sorry. I'm sending prayers and e-hugs to all of you. <<<>>>

Anonymous said...

Once my daughter slammed an attic door and locked my husband and me in... she was around 2 at the time. It was an awful couple of minutes, sitting alone in the dark, feeling so stupid for allowing that to happen. We quickly realized we could break the door down if we had to, but I was able to brightly persuade my daughter to re-enter the room and open the door.

Your story was so scary, though. I'm so glad your neighbor was home!


Wordgirl said...

Delurking here,

My father died traumatically when I was in kindergarten, but was out of our house by the time I was three -- and though we have lots of albums that I've pored over through the years what is left, for me, is this knowing, this presence -- its very particular and very strong. When I think of him I don't necessarily pull up a face, or voice -- but his essence, and it is always there.

Warm thoughts for you and your family,


OTRgirl said...

I'm so glad that ended well! How terrifying.

I was thinking the same thing as Rachel when you told the Maddie story. About cultures with rituals of food for the dead. That's an amazing story.

Anonymous said...

That just rips my heart out. Parenting is hard anyways. Parenting twins is even harder. Your situation? Boggles. My. Mind. Keep up the amazing work.

Sandy said...

Wow, Snick, your second story made me tearful. Where's the Kelenex? Thanks for your beautiful writing.