(I know I normally restrict this blog to writing, and steer clear of the personal, but this has been a pretty traumatic week. Feel free to skip this post if you want, writing-related posts will resume next week.)
Ever since my kids were born, I’ve become the lightest sleeper in the world. My daughter used to suffer night terrors, and still quite often sleep walks, and I’ve trained myself to wake at even the slightest noise.
Lately, it’s been even worse. I spend most of the night tossing and turning, until finally getting up for the day between 3am and 5am most mornings.
Until Saturday night. We go out for a long walk (I clock over 16,000 steps on my fitbit), I have a drink during date night (which combined with my concussion meds makes me sleepy), and when I go to bed, I crash and stay solidly asleep until 6:30 a.m.
When I come downstairs Sunday morning it’s cold. Really cold. So I go in search of the open window. But it’s not a window. Our back door is sitting open, and someone has left the screen door propped open with a stick. All night.
I shut the door and curse my husband under my breath. Sure, we were staining furniture the day before and the house was a bit smelly, but wasn’t that why we’d let the kids sleep in the basement? It’s 4°C and a skunk lives in our side yard. Why would he think propping the door open was a good idea? When did he even do it? I was the last to bed, for once. He must have got up to watch TV after I fell asleep, and opened it then.
I check the house for skunks, or any other critters who might have wanted in out of the cold, but there’s no sign of overnight visitors.
Wait, that’s not completely true. A box of the kids’ crackers is sitting on the garbage can. Weird. There’s no way the boys would have come upstairs to snack in the middle of the night, and I would have heard the Girl sleepwalk, since she stayed in her own room, next to ours. Wow, I was really not paying attention last night before bed.
I open the pantry to put the crackers away, and there’s a big empty space where *my* box should sit.
Right, I guess my mother-in-law must have finished them off while babysitting. I add them to the grocery list, but my spidey-sense starts tingling. This is all too weird. I look in the garbage and both recycling bins: no cracker box.
Outside, beside the recycling bin sits a small black bag. I open it. There’s a scarf, some womens’ clothes, some maxi pads and a screwdriver. Not mine. Not likely my mother-in-law’s.
I wander back into the house, confused. Hubs’ tablet sits on the kitchen island, next to my laptop and phone/wallet. There’s about $5 in change from the kids’ allowance on the counter.
I wander back to the pantry, but nothing else appears to be missing. I open the fridge. Saturday was grocery day, and I bought two blocks of mozzarella cheese to make lasagna. Now there’s only one.
I stand in the middle of the kitchen, seriously weirded out now. Someone was in my house. Someone who only took a bit of food, but left money and electronics. A homeless person? Hungry? I can’t get too mad about that. We can buy more cheese.
But why did they block open the door? Like they were carrying something large or heavy? Blood drains from face and I bolt from the room.
There’s something more precious than money in the house.
My stomach is in knots as I race down the stairs to where the boys are sleeping as a special treat, the first time ever. I squint in the darkness. They sit up. “Is it morning?”
“Sure, come on upstairs.”
I hurry to the second floor, and by the time I reach the top of the stairs the Girl is up, too, we’ve made so much noise. I hug them all. Then I wander through the house in a daze, looking for things that aren’t right. My hat and jacket have fallen off my coat hook. I replace them. The kids ask if I’m okay.
I’m not okay.
I go back to the kitchen. Am I imagining it all? Did I decide to only buy one block of cheese because it wasn’t on sale? My memory’s not as good as it used to be since the concussion.
There must be a sensible explanation. My mother-in-law propped open the door to ease the smell from the stain. She snacked on crackers, and left a bag in my yard. All I have to do is call her and confirm so I can stop freaking out myself and the kids.
As I dial, I flip open my phone/wallet. The cards are all there, but didn’t I have cash, too? Or did I spend it on coffee the other day? No, I put a twenty in. At least, I meant to. Damn this concussion, why can’t I remember?
I finally get a hold of my mother-in-law. No, she did not prop the door open. No, she did not eat any crackers. Someone was definitely in the house. Good thing they only took some food and left all the phones and purses.
I don’t always carry one, but I did last night for our date. I go to the cupboard where I usually hang it–away from the front door, where it’s sensible–but it’s not there. I rush to my coat hook and the memory of hanging my jacket back up earlier slaps me in the face. I run around the main floor, and the kids join in the search, but it’s obvious within seconds: my purse is gone.
My sunglasses are gone! My prescription sunglasses. The ones I wear every time I leave the house because the concussion has made me light-sensitive.
My favourite lip balm’s gone too, the one I’ve already been stressing about replacing because it’s half-done and I bought it at a craft show and I’m sure I’ll never find another like it. The purse held some cash and bus tickets, too, but those are infinitely more replaceable.
My mother-in-law suggests checking outside. She’s still on the phone I’ve been carrying around this whole time. Sometimes the thieves take the cash and dump the bags, she says.
I put on my shoes and shout to hubs that I’m going for a walk. I wander around our next door neighbours’ cedars–a few weeks ago thieves (likely the same ones) took the kids’ glow sticks from our unlocked car and dumped them in the same bushes. But my purse isn’t there.
I come back to the house. There’s no sense scouring the neighbourhood. But there’s another bag of women’s clothes beside the car. I put it in the side yard with the other. The gate joining our yard to the neighbour’s yard is open, so I go over to tell them what happened. The kids have come outside, and they follow me.
Our neighbour is shocked and angry. “They were in my yard, too,” he says. “They left behind junk, some keys and a pair of sunglasses.”
Is it possible?
Can I see them?
He takes us to the corner of the yard where my sunglasses, keys, and lip balm(!) sit next to a bottle of disgusting chai cream liqueur we got as a house warming gift and a bottle of de-alcoholized wine, from when I was pregnant.
My body goes cold. I have trouble talking, but manage to tell the kids to go home. Yell at them to go home. Once they’re out of earshot I dissolve into tears. I have to hold on to a patio chair to keep myself upright.
Our liquor cabinet is in the basement. Through the room my boys slept in. My stomach heaves. The thief walked past my sleeping children.
I stumble back into the house and go straight downstairs to the liquor cabinet. It’s strangely undisturbed. Who would take chai liqueur but leave a full bottle of vodka? I stumble back to the kitchen and open the fridge. The bottom shelf on the door is bare. That’s where the liqueur lived. Breathing becomes easier.
Eventually I call the police. The dispatcher asks if any electronics are missing. Any jewellery? “No,” I whisper, clutching my hand wearing my wedding rings tightly. The wedding rings that live on their holder in the kitchen, because I can’t cook with them on. The ones I put on automatically sometime during the morning as the drama unfolded around me. “No, they didn’t take any jewellery.”
She asks if I heard anything, if I can narrow down the timeframe, and I curse my first solid sleep in years. My last solid sleep for years.
As we wait for the police to arrive, I ask my daughter if she heard anything overnight. Her brothers sleep like stones, but she often gets up to use the washroom. “No,” she says, “but if I did, I probably would have come down to talk to you.”
Bile rises in my throat.
She would have come downstairs.
I blink back tears and try to breathe. But would she really have come down? Her father is often still up when she wakes in the night, and she rarely goes farther than the upstairs bathroom.
But if I had heard a noise?
I would have assumed it was one of the children, and gone to the kitchen to check on them. What would have happened then?
I can’t think about that.
My family is safe. We lost nothing more important than our Health cards, which are replaceable, with effort.
And our peace of mind, which will be much harder to get back.