Locked Out

In the moment, something unexpected feels heavy, scary, and stressful. We undergo a rainbow of emotions, a plethora of thoughts, and seconds or minutes of total blankness. But when the episode is over and the fog thins, there’s little left to do but breathe, laugh, and love.

Like any other day, the day of the lock out was a busy morning in my house. Jay and I had the day off (I wanted to use up some PTO time) and we were planning on a lot of book reading, hide-and-go-seek playing, and movie soundtrack dancing.

“Momma,” Jay said from his room. “Momma, Hi!” His morning greeting is consistent. After getting dressed, brushing teeth, combing hair, and letting our dog Nola outside to do her thing, Jay and I made our way to the kitchen to get a pot of coffee going for me, and a warm milk going for him.

Reaching into the fridge for whole milk for Jay, I noticed my bowl of blueberries looking a little sad. After fixing Jay his breakfast, I decided to whip up a small batch of blueberry sauce for later use on pancakes and such. I’d rather not waste fresh fruit if I can help it!

Somehow I managed to burn my blueberry sauce. Instead of throwing it away or pouring it down the garbage disposal, I decided to step outside and dump it in the woods behind our house. It is winter in Michigan, but on this day the deck was snow free, even if the lawn wasn’t. I opened the sliding glass door and stepped out into the chilly winter morning with the burned blueberry sauce pan in hand. As it was just going to be a quick 5 steps to the railing, dump and scoop out the rest with a wooden spoon, and 5 steps back to the door, I didn’t put on shoes or a coat or a hat.

In the seconds it took me to dump the sauce and get back to the sliding glass door, Mr. Jay somehow slid the door closed and pushed the lever down to lock. At first I thought I simply wasn’t pulling hard enough. And then I saw it, the lever was in down position. It hit me. I got locked out by my toddler!

Jay, waving and smiling at me through the glass, had no idea why mom was still standing outside. I thought, I must get Jay to push that lever back up to unlock the door. I did a lot of pointing, pulling, pushing trying to show him what I needed him to do. Jay mimicked me a few times, but never on the actual lever. I tried this tactic for a while and it felt like hours, although it was really only minutes.

What now? All other doors and windows to the house were locked per usual. I watched a few cars go by and then I decided to try to get someone to stop so I could use their phone.

First I ran to the neighbors house because I saw a car in their driveway. Bzz-ring, Bzz-ring. Woof! Woof! Wait. No answer at the door. As I am turning away to run back home, I see a truck. I run towards it with my arms waving frantically, yelling “Stop! Stop!”

The driver, a man, slows, rolls down the window and looks at me. “Can I use your phone? I got locked out of my house and my toddler is in there!” He smiled, “Sure, that happened to my wife once.” Mind you, I’m standing in the middle of the street, no coat, no shoes, in wet muddy socks from running through the still snow-covered yard. He dials 911 and hands me his phone.

A quick conversation with the operator and an officer was being dispatched to the house. “Thank you,” I said to the operator. “May I try my husband quick?” I dialed Ben’s number, no answer. I get it, it isn’t a number he recognizes, and with so many robo-spam calls happening lately, it didn’t surprise me that he didn’t answer. I did leave a somewhat frantic voicemail though.

I thanked the man driving the truck who stopped to help me and I ran back to the house to the sliding door to check on Jay. He was standing right where I left him, waving and smiling at me when I came back into view.

What now? I still couldn’t stand not being able to get inside to Jay, and I wasn’t sure how long it would take for the officer to arrive. So, I tried using the frying pan sans blueberry sauce to break the glass of the garage service door window. Ben and I had the door installed when we moved in just 3 years ago; double-pane, tempered glass.

I dented the frying pan. Some 10 swings later, I somehow managed to jam my thumb but got the first layer of glass to crack. At this point, the officer was on scene. Fun fact, police officers do not have lock kits, at least ours don’t. In the future, contacting a locksmith might be the best option. 

The officer tried shattering out the glass with his flashlight. “Wow, these are some windows,” he said when he couldn’t break through either. Just then, a second officer walked up the driveway. I went round back again to check on Jay and he was still just standing and looking out the sliding door.

The first officer did a walk around the house to check for other possible points of entry. We live in a fortress! Which, in hindsight is comforting, but so very frustrating in the moment. The officer did notice the keypad basement door and I had forgotten about that. Bonus, the storm door was unlocked, so if I remembered the keypad code, we’d be in!

I remembered the code. Nola started frantically barking and I ran back around the house to the sliding door to try to get her to stop or at least let her know the intruders were there for a reason.

I could see Jay and his lip was starting to tremble. “Momma,” he said as he looked at me through the glass. “It’s OK Jay, I’m here. It’s OK. Do you want to see a song? Let’s sing a song.” For how locked down our house is, it certainly isn’t sound proof!

Singing with him through the glass, I was so close to Jay and yet, I still couldn’t get to him. Helplessness is a horrible, gut-wrenching feeling. He was totally fine though and not in any danger; he was just inside the house alone and I was stuck outside looking in.

With both officers in the basement, we had a good chance of getting to Jay. But Ben and I always keep the door to the basement locked from our main living area. An extra precaution. You can never be too safe! But the officers were thwarted yet again, they made it into the house, but we still couldn’t get to Jay.

“Have you been able to get a hold of your husband? Where does he work?” one of the officers came out to ask me. I said I tried using the man’s phone but he didn’t answer before. I also said he works about 40 minutes away. “Oh,” they said. “Here, try him again.” Ring. Ring. Voicemail. Another slightly more restrained, but still frantic message.

Because I’d already cracked the garage service door pretty good, the officers ended up breaking that window after multiple tries. To get through, they ended up using a shovel they normally use to help stranded cars during snow storms. I saw the officers walk into the house while standing at the sliding door. I saw Jameson wave at them. One of the officers opened the sliding door and I rushed in.

“Hi,” Jameson said, totally unaware of the epic 45 minutes that had just occurred. I instantly hugged the closest officer and let out a heavy sob as tears began to fall. “You’re alright, it’s alright, it happens more than you’d think,” they said. “We’ll need to see your ID,” said the other officer.

“Now what do you need to do this afternoon?” said the officer whom I hugged so intensely. “Clean up all that glass,” I said. They nodded, “Yes, but I meant get a key somewhere or to someone who can help you if this ever happens again.” Valid point officer. “Yes, right, of course!”

“Jay can you tell them thank you?” I asked as the officers prepared to leave. Jay signed thank you and gave them a big smile and wave. As soon as they were gone, I picked Jay up and snuggled into him on the couch. Tears started up again. He saw them, gently touched my cheeks and then leaned into me, letting me hold him until I was ready to let go.

That afternoon while Jay napped, I tackled the job of tempered glass cleanup and removal. I rigged a cardboard box with zipties and tape to cover the now open window. I swept, shoveled, and scooped.

It was a stressful and cold 45 minutes watching Jay smile, wave, knock, point, sing, and tear-up at me through the sliding glass door. I’ll remember it forever. I’m sure Jay’s already forgotten.

To top it off, it was gymnastics morning. Shortly after the whole ordeal, Jay and I jumped in the car and made our way to the gym. The weeks following our first week back have been smooth, thankfully. I needed to get out of the house and do something that felt normal. Jay had a great class and rocked on his side shuffles on the balance beam.

In short, the unexpected often begins with fear and anxiety, but by the time it’s all said and done, it’s a memory to look back on, learn from, and laugh over. We could all use a little of that.

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