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I locked myself out at my parents’ last week. I’d been trying to do a good deed—water Dad’s tomato plants—and had even left myself a yellow sticky on the mirror in my bathroom to that effect: “H20 toms”. It all started the night before as my mother closed down the house. My dad was already in bed…having not watered his tomato plants.
“I’ll go water them now,” I said, addressing the air in front of my mom. She is hard of hearing so she continued to fill the coffee pots (one regular for me and Dad, one decaf for her). Her floral nighty swished. “I’M GOING TO WATER DAD’S TOMATO PLANTS,” I said again. This time, I caught her attention.
“Oh no, sweetie,” she said, shaking her head. “It’s too late. Let’s do that tomorrow; they’ll be fine for overnight.”
“Okay,” I said. I’ve learned not to argue with my mother because since she’s so good at keeping my father alive, I trust her in all other respects.
I wrote the sticky and went downstairs to the basement where I was staying. Seven hours later, I walked upstairs in my own pajamas—sweatpants and a man’s t-shirt—and plugged in the regular pot. It would percolate while I watered the tomatoes and be ready for me when I came in.
I went out the door that leads into the garage, then out the back door into the yard. There sat my dad’s tomato plants under an antique school desk, all eight of them clustered together in a crate, each to its own seed pot, sheltered from the rain.
We were treating these tomato plants with great care and caution, so I quickly jettisoned my first idea about hosing them down. I needed a watering can, but there were none in sight. What to do. What do I do at my house when I need to gently water my plants? I use a water bottle. I went inside to get one, or at least I would have if the door from the garage into the house hadn’t been locked.
It was 6:45 a.m.
Dang. Mom complains about this door locking behind her sometimes. Now I’ve done it. I need to get back in. My mom treats the house like a fortress and believes that nothing bad can enter into it while she’s in charge. I knew my chances of breaking in were slim, but I tried the first window I found, back out on the porch. I got the screen up, but the window was locked. Dang.
I speed-walked from the porch back into the garage, through the garage—past the bad luck door—and out into the front yard. Jesus was smiling down, making everything green and sparkly. Hi Jesus. Could you let me into this house without waking my parents? I tried the front door, obviously locked, then jogged past the picture windows, stopping briefly at the hosta grove under my dad’s bedroom window. He was sleeping in there. I could knock on the window and wake him up. He gets enough sleep with all the naps he takes. But I might confuse him. He could have a heart attack. Instead, I grabbed a basement window-well cover and wrestled with it before realizing it was bolted to the cement. Good job, whoever did that. No one will be sneaking in this way. I walked ten feet further, standing under my mom’s bedroom window. I could knock on the window and wake her up, but she needs her sleep. If anyone deserves to sleep in, it’s Mom. Don’t disrupt her.
At the back corner of the house, nothing but green yards and sunshine encouraged me into the day. Apparently all of the neighbors were sleeping in too, and all of their dogs. I was alone out there with the hostas. I walked around the back of the house, making a mental note to stuff something into the holes under the patio where the hornets were coming in. I had seen light shining into the laundry room down in the basement; obviously, that was their entry. We couldn’t go on spraying every single one with a cloud of Raid until it died a slow death and we flushed it down the toilet, not that they really went down the toilet at first flush. My mom wouldn’t let me put Kleenex or paper towels down there: sewer problems.
I’d been peeing on dead hornets for a week.
Finally I was at the back patio again, where I’d started about ten minutes before. I tried the patio door: open. My mother locks the house down but leaves the patio door open. There is something wrong with this system. I slid the door open about ten inches, then slid it shut, open and shut again, just testing. Why hadn’t I tried this door first?
I was still testing the open door when my mother appeared, all shorter than me in her bright nighty and bare toes. “What are you doing?” she asked through the screen.
“I came out to water Dad’s tomato plants,” I said. I felt like a giant of testosterone in man-clothes out on the patio doing jobs when I should have been inside, delicately sipping coffee and eating donuts with my mother.
“I’ve been watching you,” my mom said. “I saw you running from window to window. I’d catch up to you at one, but then you’d be off to another.”
The screen still separated us. I was still outside; my mom, inside.
“Why didn’t you let me in?” I asked.
“I thought you were exercising,” she said.
“Can you let me in now?”
We pad to the kitchen, my mom all-girl with her night hair sticking up, still unable to hear me when I suggest a better way of locking down the house for the night, which includes actual locking. I sit down on a wood chair by the kitchen table. I know my coffee is perked, and I want some.
“Why didn’t you plug my pot in?” my mom asks, five years old again, the same woman who gave me a book for my birthday and put two crisp twenties and a fiver in it for bookmarks, one dollar for every year of my life, even though I’m actually 44.
“I didn’t know I’d be gone this long,” I say, deciding right then that I would never be gone so long again.