Monday, May 23, 2011


"There's someone outside!"

Countless times over the last 10 years, I've woken Jason up in the middle of the night to tell him that I think someone's outside on our deck. I've been wrong every single time; usually it's just the wind shifting the patio furniture, or the neighbor's garage door opening and echoing strangely around the back of our house, or a particularly raucous party being thrown by the young couple at the end of the cul-de-sac. Our deck spans the entire length of the house, and our bedroom has a walkout. Any little noise or minute shift in the furniture or pop in the wood during rapid temperature changes makes it seem as though someone is walking around right outside our bedroom door.

Friday night, though, I was finally right when I heard noises outside. Yay?

It was 5am, and I had been sleeping like the proverbial rock. Hours spent packing and moving things out to the POD after a long day of work had me physically and mentally exhausted. Something woke me up before I even heard the noises, a sense of something being wrong in the world. I checked on Ainsley to find her sleeping peacefully; I checked for lit candles and walked out to the living room to make sure the house was sound. I decided I just needed more sleep.

No sooner had I gotten back in bed than I heard the patio furniture on our deck move suddenly and loudly.

Wow, I thought. The wind is really picking up. We must be getting a storm.

Then I remembered that there was no patio furniture on the deck. It was in the garage, ready for the movers. I heard the noises again, though louder this time. Footsteps. Shuffling. The whole deck vibrating. A squeaking noise against the bedroom wall that seemed as though someone or something was pushing against the vinyl siding.

I woke up Jason, as I have so many times. And like the townspeople who heard the little boy cry "Wolf!" one too many times, he had no reason to believe anything was amiss. Until he, too, heard the unmistakeable noises of something larger than a raccoon and much more bipedal roaming around our property.

I am not a fan of guns. I've said I never want one in my home, what with having a small and curious child. But I immediately found myself wanting to pull out a 9 and bust a cap in someone's ass.

Jason started to part the curtains over the walkout door.

"Don't!" I whisper-screamed.

I didn't want to see what was out there. It could have been a garden-variety burglar who thought the house with the "Sold" sign in the yard, and the Pod in the driveway, was vacant and a good place to hit. An amateur who would have gotten scared off had the curtains parted. Or it could have been a serial killer. Or some trigger-happy jail escapee who had already held up a liquor store and a pawn shop and had nothing to lose. I thought it might be good to make some noise but to not paint a target on ourselves.

I called 911. They asked me if I was sure it wasn't an animal; I told them that unless buffalo herds had been spotted in Spring Valley recently, I was fairly sure our intruders were in the human family. Jason got up and rattled around the bathroom. My mama grizzly instincts took over and I stationed myself at Ainsley's bedroom door, ready to grab her and run at the sound of a window smashing. Instead, I just kept hearing the noises out on the deck. From the hallway, it seemed the whole house was shaking and even the attic seemed to be creaking. I pictured ninjas invading our home, climbing the roof to swoop in through the windows on ropes. My legs began to fail me and I collapsed against my child's bedroom door, praying that whoever was outside our house would just leave already.

"I'll give you whatever you want," I wanted to say. "The more you take is the less we have to move. Just quit freaking me out."

After Jason flushed the toilet, the noises seemed to stop. It's as though it took a flushing toilet for them to get scared away. There are some jokes I could make here, but I haven't slept well in three nights and I'll just leave the potty humor to you.

Two police officers arrived after that, and they searched all over our property. Whoever it was, they were good and gone. The guy and gal in blue reinforced my first thought that whoever it was probably assumed that our house was vacant. Having heard the noises we were making inside the house, they learned they were wrong and fled. As dawn broke, I tried to settle back into restless sleep.

The next day, a conversation with our neighbors revealed that there was widespread vandalism in our neighborhood that night. Every car parked on the street adjacent to ours was egged. Jason checked all around the house looking for any damage and vandalism, and when he lifted the heavy wooden door to our storage space under the deck, we both recognized the shaking, squeaking, creaking noise we had heard so much. The noise that sounded like siding being torn off. The pieces started coming into place; the egging vandals, perhaps after being spotted, looked for a good place to hide. The deck and unlocked storage nook (we had taken everything out of it in preparation for the move) of a house sold and seemingly vacant seemed like a good idea. In there, they probably shuffled around and pushed against the siding. At one point, they probably did venture up onto our large, high deck to look out and see if the coast was clear. And at the sound of our voices (and a flushing toilet in the bathroom that looks out to the deck) they scattered.

It was a comfort the next day to be able to have a theory built around some meddling kids and not a friendly neighborhood serial killer. Until nightfall, when I slept with one eye open, waiting for the sound of a return visit.

I had been very nostalgic about leaving our house. I was full of warm, fuzzy memories. But my sense of safety and security there are now completely obliterated. Whether my teenage vandal theory is accurate or not, someone was in my yard, under my deck, on my deck. They could see in windows, they were feet from where we were sleeping. They invaded my privacy, my turf. I felt violated. It will be hard to find peace there again.

Our next house is next door to a police officer. I will feel safer knowing that. In the light of day, I go back to thinking I don't want a gun in my house. But who knows? Maybe I will at least try to learn how to use one.

For now, though, we are safe. Which is the most important thing.

And we only have two more nights in our house. Which is suddenly just as important.

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