Today began ordinarily. I put a load of diapers in the wash, fried a couple eggs and begged Bugbee to postpone his departure for the office another ten minutes so I could shower. I needed to clean the floors, but a million other tiny “jobs” clutter my brooding mind. One simple task that could be easily achieved was taking the bag filled with recycling out to the bins. Normally Buglet remains in the great room, closed off from the kitchen by the baby gate, however this morning he was with me swatting alphabet magnets off the refrigerator with his hockey stick. When he realized I had opened the back door, Buglet abandoned his game. I told him I would be right back and asked him to stay where he was, by the door. This was my first mistake, or perhaps closing the door behind me was my initial oversight. (There are many teensy weensy careless acts in motherhood that go without regard, however when the forecast is either misinterpreted or ignored nothing can detain a coming fiasco.) My second mistake was not bringing my cellphone.
Like a well-prepared mother, I have an insurance plan for just about every circumstance. I bring my cell phone on walks in case I get abducted (Woman Uses Cell Phone as Weapon). I bring water and diapers every time I leave the house (except that last trip to Home Debot). I think of the hundred ways Buglet could choke, cutting his food into crumbs and the numerous ways he might crack his skull open dampens trips to the park. The whole of these stresses should have been reason for me to heed the penetrating thought whizzing across my consciousness like a bird alighting from the grape vines, maybe it is a bad idea to leave Buglet standing in front of a closed door as he is now tall enough to reach the dead bolt. But what two year old could slip a dead bolt into locked position, especially one with such hitches and position requirement for proper latching? This consideration was followed by a cascade of others: remember to restart rinse cycle on wash, check water levels in bamboo plants, clean out cat boxes, so that the worrisome notion became the whimsical flight of dream.
My list of chores still compressed my skull as I climbed the step. In the second before I turned the doorknob I was struck again by the laughable thought that the knob would not twist, followed by the fact that it did not, in fact, budge. For an instant I had the overwhelming sensation I was caught in a waking nightmare. Several times I tried to twist the knob, hearing an echo as the door caught when I leaned into it.
“Buglet!” I screeched, far to frantically than one should when dealing with a toddler in a situation like this, but at the time my emotions were taking over. He answered me happily with the sort of ambiguous language granted a two year old. After hearing he was in fact alive and well (he had not harmed himself in the minute it took me to take out the trash) I began to think about options. The house was impenetrable. All the windows were double paned, equipped with a storm window barely accessible from the inside, let alone the outside. I wasn’t getting in through a window. I thought fast, though time felt like it was moving in slow motion. I had no idea how long I had before Buglet did something harmful to his person. It was Thursday. This meant, thankfully, Bugbee was nearby at his office, not, say, the stove shop across town. Still, he was about fifteen blocks away. If I ran—which I could never do the whole way—it would take me about eight minutes. If I could call him…
I thought feebly about the neighbors. One of them was bound to be home, but that would still mean leaving Buglet unattended for several minutes. Instead of running frantically across the street I asked my son if he could unlock the door. (In retrospect I am unsure as to why this action did not come to me immediately.)
“Ok,” he responded in a matter of fact voice and I could hear the doorknob rattle.
“Not that one, the dead bolt, the one you locked.” Was I screaming? “Honey, try again, I know you can do it.” My insides were shattering. The dead bolt was new, but the door was old and sometimes had to be pushed on to relieve the lock. I pulled the knob towards me and said, “There, now try again.” For a moment I thought we hung over a chasm, having lost our grip on the rock wall we were climbing and I was relying on my baby to pull us both up.
“Ok,” came his steady call. Just as I felt myself slipping from an invisible harness I heard the sweet sound of the lock, our lock, clicking open. I fell on the door in relief. There he was, my smiling child, with his head of floppy white hair, his brown eyes, perfect replicas of his Pop Pop’s, glinting with the light of a brand new day.
“Mama is so proud of you,” I sang to him, squeezing his magnificent little body in my arms (nothing like a traumatic experience to bring us closer together).
Since the “great lock out” Buglet insists on bolting the door every morning after kissing his Pop Pop goodbye for the day. Never again, I think, every morning, sticking my wad of keys in a jean’s pocket. How many more unforeseeable hazards lie ahead? How many preventable perils lurk around every corner, or hang above my head like a spider descending? As mothers it is impossible not to taint our happiness with these pest of existence. But the moral, Mothers? Forego the worry. It’s all out of our control.