I have woken up over the years to all kinds of sights and sounds, friends.
I have woken up to spread butt cheeks and an anus inches from my nose. “MOM! My butthole hurts REALLY BAD. Do I have a rash?”
I have woken up with a dog on my face.
I have woken up to the smoke alarm when a teenager put cookies in the oven and then went to a movie and forgot.
I have woken up to projectile vomit projecting onto me.
I have woken up after someone else has peed my bed.
I have woken up to a preschool penis and its proud owner. “CHECK THIS THING OUT, MOM. It is hard and HUGE. Isn’t it, Mom? Isn’t it hard and HUGE? It did that all by hisself, Mom, while I was sleeping! And when I push it down – WATCH, Mom, WATCH – it springs back up. ALL BY HISSELF, Mom. I sure like this thing. Do you feel sad you don’t have a penis, Mom? Mom? Mom, why is your pillow over your head? Mom? MOM? CAN YOU HEAR ME, MOM? I AM TALKING TO YOU ABOUT MY PENIS, MOM.”
I have, in other words, awakened to all kinds of terror over the years, but nothing quite compares to the sudden gasp and instant something-is-wrong – SOMETHING IS REALLY, REALLY WRONG — middle-of-the-night awakening. It’s sound sleep to FULL GO in 0.6 seconds. Terror. True, deep, abiding dread. And it doesn’t matter that the rational person who lives in my brain is saying, “It’s nothing. It’s probably just a dream you can’t remember,” I get up anyway to make sure the children are still breathing. I get up anyway, even though my husband always sides with Rational Brain. I get up anyway because I know – I KNOW – Rational Brain and Husband are Incredibly Stupid and Not To Be Trusted in the middle of the night. They know NOTHING. NOTHING, I tell you, and so I make the rounds, just to be sure, and, when all’s well again (only because I checked, of course; if I hadn’t checked, something would’ve been wrong), and Rational Brain and Husband say, “I told you so,” I do NOT punch them in the throat because a) I am a paragon of virtue, and b) being punched in the throat is only temporary suffering and they deserve much, much worse.
The other night, I woke up that way. Sudden gasp. Sound sleep to FULL GO. Deep, abiding dread.
So I rose from my bed, as I do in these circumstances, to check on my children.
I rounded the bed and made for the door, feeling my way, mostly, but also aided by the tiniest sliver of moonlight seeping through the window.
My heart thumped in complete fight-or-flight panic mode, and Mama Heart overrode Rational Brain. “If there is an intruder in this house, I WILL BRAIN THAT F*CKER,” I thought. Mama Heart doesn’t always use her nice words, and sometimes she forgets she’s married to a nice Christian pacifist. Also, Mama Heart’s not the one you want against you in a knife fight because SHE WILL CUT YOU.
Heart thumping, I quietly slid my feet along the floor, careful to push Legos and discarded kid undies out of my way before planting my feet because I AM EXPERIENCED, and I know what I’m doing, and I passed the dog crate which has stood empty for months now that the dog has graduated to sleeping on the kids’ faces.
I passed the dog crate, and I glanced down at it as I passed.
I glanced down at it as I passed, and it was not empty.
I glanced down at it as I passed, and it was not empty like it should be.
There were EYEBALLS in there, looking at me.
Eyeballs that did not belong to a dog or to a child, which I briefly considered, because, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t put it past my nutjobs to sneak into my room in the middle of the night, curl up in the dog crate, and FREAK ME THE HELL OUT.
There were eyeballs that did not belong to a dog or to a child, and THEY WERE WIDE OPEN LOOKING AT ME.
They were wide open looking at me, and they belonged to something – some Chucky-like, non-living, but TOTALLY ALIVE AND MENACING thing – trapped in the dog crate.
Here’s what happened next:
I screamed inside my brain, high and LONG, I backed away from the dog crate, I scrambled backwards into my bed, I pulled all the covers over my head, and I hoped we weren’t all about to be slaughtered in our sleep by that thing.
I did not check on my children.
I did not make sure anyone was breathing.
I did not Fight.
Nope; I Flew.
Turns out, when Fight or Flight are my options, I’m a flyer, y’all. A gigantic freaked out bird hightailing it out of the danger zome.
Mama Heart talks big, friends. She’s a braggy bragger who brags, and she swears like a sailor while she does it, but when Rational Brain yelled, “RUN! EVERY WOMAN FOR HERSELF. GO, GO, GO! SAVE YOURSELF,” she was all, “Yep! You betcha. I’ll just be right here in my bed under my titanium covers where huge, Chucky-like, middle-of-the-night eyeballs can’t get me. You go ahead and take the children, Eyeballs. Do what you gotta do.”
And then, because I always put my children’s welfare above my own, I went back to sleep. I mean, I felt guilty, but I went back to sleep.
In the morning I discovered this:
Tickle Me Elmo, whom I have always despised, mocking me from the dog crate.
I have known for a long time that Tickle Me Elmo is evil.
Now I have proof.
Unfortunately, I also have proof I’m a pansy who will scream and run and save herself.
Let’s just keep that last bit to ourselves, though, OK? No reason to tell the kids.
With love (and no dignity left at all),