February 22nd, 2008
My husband’s yelling woke me up.
Then I heard the home security alarm.
I hurled myself out of bed and looked at our alarm system flashing red, and wanted to cover my ears to shield against the piercing beep.
But there was the yelling. And the scrambling. And oh my God, is someone in the house? The kids! Where are the kids?
My husband ran into the bedroom, trying to turn the thing off. But if someone were in the house, wouldn’t we want to leave it on?
I couldn’t hear what he was shouting, but we turned the alarm off and I grabbed the phone.
We ended up in the kitchen, he grabbing a steak knife and a hammer, me picking up my cell phone and holding it in the same hand as the house phone.
We still hadn’t said a word to each other.
Now, he planned to go downstairs. The red light blinking on our alarm told us that a door had opened downstairs.
I dialed 911 on both phones and paused before hitting “send.” He started down the stairs, and I peered in my girls’ bedroom not 50 feet from me. They remained asleep.
i imagined joining them inside, dragging their heavy dresser across the door and opening the windows and screaming.
But there was my husband. My husband! I heard slamming and more yelling. I ran to the top of the stairs. 911 remained undialed. What if it were nothing? I waited.
Adrenaline made me unaware of what I’d feel later — the heart pulsing, the lungs rasping, the eyes darting. For now, I didn’t breathe.
My husband bounded upstairs. “The door from the garage to the house was open.”
“Did you look in the garage?” I said it, almost accusingly. How could he not look? The kids!
“No, Last thing I want to do is confront someone.” He looked down at his hammer and measly steak knife. “I shouted to scare them off.”
We stood there, eyes shifting between where the girls slept and the landing leading downstairs.
Finally, we decided to call 911 and ask them to send a local police officer to check things out.
Here is where we started to think the horrible, necessary thoughts of what we would do if someone were in the house. Fight back? Give in? Barricade ourselves in the kids’ room?
The 911 operator stayed on the phone with us the whole time. Soon enough, an officer (just one?) arrived, with his silent, dark police car.
He walked the perimeter, shining the flashlight in nooks and crannies. We let him in and he searched inside, with me as unwanted backup. I re-checked under beds, behind desks, and even in our Harry Potter closet, the one that winds around to end in a low, hidden area under the stairs.
He determined that our door hadn’t latched properly and that a wind jostled the security sensor setting it off. And he left.
My husband and I sat upstairs on the couch, wondering how an inside door could be shaken by the wind.
But we didn’t say it aloud.
And I just wanted to crawl in the furthest corner of my house with my family, deleting the spaces around us, until it was just us with no lights flashing, no hammer, no wind.