DIARIO DI MAMMA
The sweetest pain I know is the weight of my 4-year-old son suffocating me as all 40 pounds of him sleeps soundly on my chest. This moment is precious because it is fleeting, because all too soon he will be embarrassed to be seen with me. In the next blink, he’ll have a life of his own, and I’ll be griping that he forgets to call. These were the thoughts rattling around in my brain in the wee hours of Sunday morning. They were shockingly interrupted when I began hearing a jarring noise just outside my bedroom window. Unwilling to give up the deliciousness of the heaviness on my heart by moving my son to the nearby pillow, I ignored the ruckus.
But the sound wouldn’t ignore me. It never ended. It was as though someone was shaking heavy metal doors on a big rig. I wondered why someone would begin moving at 4 a.m. on a Sunday when it was pouring rain outside. Or was it just the rain and wind causing the banging and clanging? I wondered if it was my parents, who live in the rear apartment of the home and run a landscaping business from the garage and driveway. I was furious that my stubborn, older Italian father was already up and at ’em and making this much noise so early in the morning. He wouldn’t do that, would he?
Maybe it was the marathon of Forensic Files I had been watching when I couldn’t sleep or the mamma bear in me, but I couldn’t shake it. Then, I heard what sounded like a big rock getting thrown against the pavement. I wondered if there was an animal, such as a raccoon, out there arguing with my father. It’s happened before. Don’t mess with Italians and their tomato gardens. Any pesky pest will tell you. But those are stories for another time, and this didn’t seem like one of those situations. I began to worry that it wasn’t my father playing garden police.
I gently moved my son and went to the window. I saw nothing. I looked a few other times. Still nothing. So, I went back to the bed believing my mind was deceiving me. Then, someone began jiggering my front door. It seemed as though someone was in my entryway. Heat radiated through my entire body. The hair on the back of my neck literally stood up. That seriously actually happens. I jumped up, locked the bedroom door, and grabbed the phone on the nightstand. But what would I say to the 911 operator? I just heard a series of strange noises…during a rain storm. I almost felt silly. That’s when I heard more noise coming from the driveway. This time when I looked out the window, I spotted a man I did not know crouching by my parent’s car and rummaging through my father’s landscaping tools, flowers, and equipment. He was frantically trying to open doors to the parked vehicles.
Shaking, I fell to my knees and slowly closed my bedroom windows. I didn’t want this man to hear me on the phone. I crawled to the other side of the room and put my hand on my son’s belly. He still angelically slept. First, I called my parents to tell them to stay locked in their house because there was a stranger near their front door. Many will fault me for this. But an Italian man, like my father, believes himself to be Superman, no matter his age or health. If someone threatens him or his family (not to mention those tomatoes), he will react. I had no idea whether this stranger was armed, but he had easy access to rakes, cages from lawn mowers, and those rocks and bricks. Any of those could have seriously injured or, God forbid, killed my father. That split-second decision to call Papa first was the right one for us.
Once my parents were staying inside, I called 911. The operator took the information quickly and told me to stay locked in the room with my son until the police came. My son woke up and laid perfectly still in the bed. I kept my shaking hand on him and planned to cover him with my body should someone get into the bedroom. I don’t know why that was my first thought, but it was. I whispered, “Are you all right?” He whispered, “Yes,” and clutched me. I prayed slow and hard. I felt heat radiating off me, and it felt as though blood was rushing to my heart, which swelled and raced and nearly burst. I could still hear the man but didn’t want to run to the window. I couldn’t bear letting him see us. The longest five minutes of my life were underway.
The next thing I heard was my father’s voice and then a stranger’s voice yelling, “Get inside! Get inside!” Apparently, the man had begun to try to open my parent’s door when he saw the police. My father thought the trespasser was the policeman and opened the door. Luckily, the police were right behind and grabbed the man and put him face down on my parent’s staircase, handcuffed him, and brought him to the front of our driveway. The police had my father go outside to confirm we had never seen this man, and he had never worked for my father or anything like that. No one asked us any other questions. My mother came to our door, and my son ran to the window, where he saw the “villain” (he’s in his superhero phase) and the policemen.
Just like that, we’re living in fear. I have not slept soundly since this happened. I obsess about every lock on every door and window. My son, who already feared being on a different floor of the house than me, won’t even stay in a different part of a room. He even demanded to sit on my lap while I was peeing. We were lucky. Nothing happened. The only crime that was committed was trespassing. But this makes no difference to my body, which is functioning on high-speed adrenaline, a queasy stomach, and a mind teeming with worst-case scenarios. Indeed, the instilled fear is the greater crime, and one I’m having a hard time erasing. Still, the moral of the story is to lock your doors and fight the fear. Or else, the villains will win.