I fed her a Twix bar in bed at 11:30 p.m. Everything hereafter reasons to be punishment for the fact that I fed my 4-year-old a Twix bar in bed at 11:30 p.m.
At 4:40 a.m., two nights ago, I woke up in a sweat. We were staying in an old, two-story home tucked away deep in the woods of a college campus in Rome, Georgia. Earlier that day I saw a young, nerdy guy in his early 20's walk into the local Starbucks with an archaically long pistol holstered boastfully to the outside of his blue jeans. Followed by an old woman who was sure enough in a moo-moo with no undergarments. But that is neither here nor there. Just scenes that flashed through my head at 4:50 a.m.
But back to 4:40 a.m.
I woke up in a sweat. Nestled into a 4 poster bed with Annie, on the second floor of the house deep in the woods- I was tossing and turning- covered in sweat. I woke up. We were both on top of the covers. I felt Annie and she was hot too. In a sleep stupor, I cracked the door and went down the hallway of the old house. I remembered seeing a thermostat in the hallway. 78 degrees. 78 DEGREES?!?!? It's summer in the middle of Georgia. Old ladies wear m0o-moos to Starbucks without undies. Who set this thing on 78 degrees?!? Still in my sleep stupor, I cranked the dial down to an ungodly number.
And instantly it kicked on and the doors to the four rooms along the old hallway sucked shut.
I stumbled back to my room, numbered R3, to find a locked door.
You know the feeling when you nod off while driving and the sound of the rumble strips, or an 18-wheelers horn, snaps you out of it? It's an instant wake-up call.
Awake. Alert. Aware.
That was me at 4:40 a.m.
I tried coaxing the handle into not being locked. Jiggling it softly and then quickly turning to the left and right. Tricking it into thinking it was not locked. A girl has to try. It was clear this would not work. So I went to my band mate's room who was sleeping across the hall from us. I knocked. I knocked again. And again. And then I started calling her name. "ANNNIIIIEEEEE WAKE UP." Nothing. "ANNNNIIIIIEEEEE I'M LOCKED OUT." Nothing.
I learned something valuable about big-girl Annie (as little girl Annie likes to call her)... if there is a tornado in the middle of the night, I should rescue her. Otherwise SHE WILL DIE.
"OK Jenny. There has to be a way you can pick the lock. You can do this. Think like a criminal."
Next to my door was a writing desk of sorts. On it were cards advertising the camps summer marriage series. Next to the cards were 3 creepy glass cats who were staring at me. No pens. No paper. No hidden room keys. Just the cats who stared. And then- I saw what was in the middle of the table- an urn surrounded by flowers. My heart stopped. Seriously? An urn surrounded by flowers? What kind of sick person wants to die and be left at summer camp?!?
Focus Jenny. There was nothing to pick the lock with. It was time to explore the old house in the woods but can I just say- I am not a thrill-seeker. I don't find any joy or sick pleasure in being in an old house, in the woods, in the dead of night, with glass cats and urns staring at me. I scoured the house. There weren't any phones. No TVs for that matter. No hidden keys. No kitchen where I can find utensils to pick the lock. Nothing. My car keys are in the bedroom. My cell phone is in the bedroom.
5:00 a.m. rolls around. It is raining. Soon there will be thunder. Soon Annie will wake up to the sound of the house shaking in the dark woods and I will not be there. She will be in a new room- on an old Victorian bed several feet off the ground- she might as well wake up in a death trap- and she will call my name and I won't be there.
I ran upstairs and took the camp's marriage cards with 3 annoyingly happy looking couples and began to whittle them away. I would pick the lock. I had to. There may not be a single piece of metal in the entire house but by God I will try and re-create it. With slivers of card-stock I wriggle and wrestle with the lock.
The 3 creepy glass cats cheer me on! The urn person becomes my cheer-ghost! The annoyingly happy couples slide in and out, in and out. You can do it! With hard work and therapy and Jesus and a getaway to this magical house- you can do it! I try the happy white couple. Then I try the happy Hispanic couple. Then I try the happy bi-racial couple. None of them work. None. I try my fingernails. I try waking the other Annie again. No use. That girl might be dead. I turn my thoughts back to Annie. Poor little thing. She couldn't get into the bed by herself and she was afraid to get out of it because it was so high. My only option now was to wait by the door until she woke up and then tell her to jump. OK, slide. But I might as well be telling her to jump off Niagara.
I lay down with my nose touching the door. Out of the corner of my eye, I see something move. A furry black spider. Awesome and of course. I stand up in fear. I don't have a shoe- all I have are my glossy couples on card stock- and they have failed miserably to save the day.
All I can do is wait.
Finally- thunder claps so hard she wakes up crying "Mommy. Mommy. I'm scared." And I am trapped on the other side of the door. I feel sick to my stomach. It's just a door. It's just an old house in the woods. But- oh my gosh- this is what it feels like to not be able to take care of your baby when they are scared. To try everything in your power and still not be able to reach them. Literally- every mom or dad or grandma or grandpa or lover who has ever wanted to protect their person, but couldn't, ran through my head. And now it's 5:30 and I am crying for Annie and for the whole world. And the cats are staring at me and judging me and the dead person in the urn is crying too. Want to break my heart? Make it impossible for me to be with my little girl when she is scared.
"ANNIE. Baby. Listen to me. Mommy's locked out of the room!!! Isn't that silly? And I need you to come rescue me!!! Can you be my hero and come rescue me?"
"Annie. Can you hear me?"
"I need you to be brave and slide off the bed and come unlock the door for mommy. Can you do that?"
SHE FELL BACK ASLEEP.
I knock on the bedroom door. "ANNIE. BABY you have to come rescue me. Wake up! You can do it! Come save mommy!"
"I'm sleeping mom. Just open the bathroom door."
"I'm not in the bathroom baby. I'm in the hallway and there is a SPIDER AND I NEED YOU TO RESCUE ME."
Spider is a trigger word in our family. It leads to screams-tears-convulsions. I saved it until I absolutely had to. And it worked. It was her rumble strip. Instantly Awake. Alert. Aware.
"I'm a little bit scared mom but I'm gonna be brave!"
"OK baby- I'm so proud of you! You can do this! You're my HEEEERRRROOOOOO."
I hear a thud followed by "whoa!".
Little feet running to the door. I coached her through unlocking the tiny lock. She didn't think she could do it. She had never done it before.There were a few moments I was a little unsure myself. And then- she flung the door open with as much pride as she could muster.
She was wide awake and squealed with joy. "I SAVED YOU!!!!!!!"
I picked her up and put her back in the bad and thanked her for being my hero.
"Mom. I thought you were in the bathroom so I just went back to sleep."
"I know baby- it's OK. It was confusing."
"Yeah, but then I realized you were locked outside like a pet."
That line still makes me giggle. Her eyes were getting heavy. And I couldn't stop smiling. I was so proud of her.
"Mom- can I have the other part of that Twix bar for breakfast since I rescued you?"
This is the smartest child alive.
Even at 5:30 a.m. She snuggled close.
"Yes baby- you're my hero and heroes get whatever they want for breakfast." She smiled. And we fell back asleep knowing
there will be Twix bars for breakfast.