I’m on the phone with my husband screaming “It’s coming in the house! It’s coming in the house!” He’s driving up Route 55 to the bookstore for his monthly escape, I mean retreat, from the insanity of work and home. The poor guy needs a social life, because going to a bookstore for hours by himself is truly his idea of a rockin’ evening. I would, under other circumstances, never dream of interrupting his wild evening out, except that I'm home alone with 4 small children and there is some unidentified rabid animal in our garage trying manically to get into our house.
There are a few boring tidbits of information you need to know first. One is that I’m a freak. Completely paranoid about random, weird, and implausible things that can happen to a peaceful suburban family… like an airplane crashing through our bay window or the fluke tornado that rips through Southern Jersey and destroys our home. Two, we have a cat door, a dog door, and a dog shower in our laundry room though we own no pets. The previous home owner installed them for their small zoo of domesticated mammals. Three, there is a door that connects our attached garage to our laundry room. This is the door with the cat door. So, whatever is in my garage is attempting a blitzkreig on my domestic bliss through the cat door.
The cat door swings forward again, and I scream while shoving a cooler up against it. My husband is calmly asking me questions about the situation. I explain that I was in the playroom in the basement with the 4 girls. Then, I went upstairs to do some laundry. I heard scratching at the connecting garage/laundry room door. Petrified, I had gone over to quickly lock that door, and the cat door started slowly swinging open. While I couldn’t make out what kind of creature was pushing on the cat door, it seemed kinda fleshy pink colored which make me think it was a possum with that pointy fleshy snout.
“Okay,” my husband calmly instructs me. “Go around outside, punch in the code to open the garage door, and leave it open until the animal gets out.” I not so calmly explain that we turned off the main switch to the garage doors last night, as I do every night because of my paranoia of someone breaking into our house (yes, I have issues, I know). We usually unlock the garage doors first thing in the morning, but today was a lazy Sunday and no one had left the house until my husband just 20 minutes ago and he left through the front door. So, the only way I can open the garage door is by opening up the door between the laundry room and the garage to flick the switch, but the problem is there’s a rabid beast poised and waiting to scamper into my home and attack me and my children!
So now, he’s gently explaining that I should walk outside and look in the garage window to see what exactly is in there. Just then, there is a thumping sound on the other side of the door. I’m shrieking “It’s throwing itself at the door!” What is this thing?!? Suddenly, the door knob rattles. Okay, I don’t know how many animals know how to rattle a door knob. Perhaps it jumped. Or perhaps, it’s not an animal, but a person! But, that can’t be… how would they have gotten in a locked garage in the first place and why would they still be in there hearing my screaming? And, they would have had to be there for hours and hours just hanging out. No, it’s not possible. But the doorknob rattled. Holy Crap! I’m totally freaking out now. “Where are the kids?” my husband asks. They’re all in the basement. All 4. I have the safety gate up and the door shut. He tells me that I should probably call the police and even though I’m completely embarrassed to call 9-1-1 over something so stupid, I’m also totally freaked and can’t come up with any other reasonable solutions. My husband has started driving home, but he’ll be about 20 minutes.
“I’m calling the police!” I shout to the rabid animal/deranged psychopath on the other side of the door. The 9-1-1 dispatcher is quite possibly the nicest woman in the world. She should really go into the helping profession. Oh wait, she is. That’s good. Good for her. Very good for me. She stays on the line with me and gets me calmed down, and within five minutes she actually has me believing that I’m not the world’s biggest idiot for calling (she must have minored in Acting).
The police man finally arrives, having come straight from a knife fight to the all important neurotic-housewife-with-a-jumping-possum-in-her-garage call. I go outside to greet the young officer who is emerging from his vehicle with his trained canine. Oh, good heavens, I hope the neighbors aren’t home spying out their windows. Just then, my husband pulls in the driveway and dashes heroically to my side. The officer and I are trying to figure out a plan for getting the garage door open without letting the animal into the house. My ever practical husband begins sauntering over to the garage windows. “Did you ever look in the window to see what it is?” He asked. “And get my head blown off by an escaped psych ward patient hiding out in my garage? Um, I don’t think so.” I stifle a shriek as he bravely presses his face up to the window. I’m cowering at his side. He turns and looks me square in the eye. “Um, honey?” he starts. Silence hangs in the air. “It’s your daughter.”
Yes, it is my daughter. My 13 year old, neurologically impaired, severely autistic and cognitively delayed daughter. Sitting in my garage playing with her favorite thing, a pair of mardi gras beads that she swirls around endlessly, and tapping compulsively on the cat door as part of her ‘self-stim’ compulsive ritual. She’s having the time of her life.
All of this would be really, really funny except for the fact that a police officer is standing right there accutely aware that for the past hour or more a 13 year old, developmentally disabled girl has been sitting in her parent’s garage for the last 30 plus minutes. My husband and I are mortified, apologizing profusely over embarrassed laughter. I explain my daughter’s disabling conditions and how she must have slipped into the garage without my knowing and that I really thought all 4 kids were in the basement playing, because that’s where they were when I left them when I went upstairs to do some laundry. He quietly listens and I figure he’s weighing the evidence. I’m either some sort of sadistic mom, a horrendously neglectful parent, or a complete idiot. (For the record, I’m the latter). I’m unsettled because any one of these options might warrant a call to Child Protective Services.
“Ma’am” he says “May I please see the child to make sure she’s okay.” “Sure of course!” I shout all too eagerly and lead him into our home, praying my house is clean and devoid of any signs that I’m some sort of abusive parent… No belts or wire hangers lying around… good, good…. No twigs that double as ‘switches’ for a good ass whoopin’. Okay, nothing suspicious. And the house is reasonably clean. Kinda. No maggoty food, household mold, rats, roaches, or open beer cans strewn about.
Okay, we’re in the laundry room now, opening the door to the garage. No problem. He’ll see a healthy, happy child in no distress whatsoever. I open the door to escort my daughter inside and show the officer that yes, I am a good mother. To my dismay, her hair has become a giant rats nest and her clothes and face are dusty from the garage floor. The coup de gras, however, is that she is covered with her own feces head to toe. Yes, my daughter is not toilet trained, wears a diaper, and will often get into it to finger paint. Her timing is always impecable.
Yes, officer, welcome to my home and my family. Welcome to my life. Welcome to my planet. Shall I place my hands behind my back now?