• rebekahannegena

Alarm

My husband, like all men, wishes to have his name revered. He desires to be spoken of by his family, friends, and co-workers in a positive light. He strives to be an upstanding person and, therefore, fully expects that people will respect him.

Perhaps we are the wrong family for him.

But let me take you to the beginning, dear reader. It was a beautiful summer day in the deep south. The high temperatures and the high humidity were doing their level best to keep a disproportionate number of Yankees from coming across the Mason-Dixon line. The mosquitoes were breeding, and the swamp gasses collected in large pockets, hovering just above the cypress knees.

My husband was, at this time, where every good man should be…… work. But even in his servitude, he had not forgotten us. He had left us at home, where we were relaxed, comfortable, and spoiled. He had seen to the spoiling of us, himself.

We had a southern-style McMansion on a rural bit of land and two central air conditioning units, making sure that it was as cool upstairs as it was downstairs and that nobody was going to be sweating into their iced tea.

There were gaming systems, TVs, and electronic devices on every flat surface, and some anchored to the wall. There were gizmos, gadgets, keepsakes, and knick nacks behind every cupboard door and in every drawer.

There was equipment everywhere, all types of apparatuses that were useful for running a house. And there were treasures, both the kind that are valuable to a person’s heart and the kind that is valuable to a person's wallet.

But on the door was just one little lock. So, when the material possessions and the sentimental spoils became more valuable than what my husband thought that lock could hold, he hired someone to install an alarm system to protect all of our myriad of things.

But he did not do what most men would do. He did not google the local alarm system installation company, call them and have an alarm system installed. Nope. My husband, a believer in the “Good ol’ boy system,” recruited a man who worked with him, to install our alarm!

“Well.” You might say. “Why would that be a bad idea? After all, maybe a co-worker would offer a discount.”

And if you said that, you would be both reasonable and correct. He was, in fact, given a discount, but it wasn’t worth it.

You see, my husband made one fatal mistake. He forgot to account for the family at home, who would be in the house when the alarm guy arrived. His family. Us.

And I also made one fatal mistake. I let the children roam freely with company in the house. If I were a Victorian mother, I would have been taught better, and I would have sent the children out of the drawing room until the company departed. And if I had been a wise Victorian mother, I would have locked them inside their grand Victorian rooms and put the skeleton key in the pocket of my apron.

But I wasn’t. I was just a simple, southern mother doing my best and trusting that the rearing of children, up to this point, was sufficient to cause them to maintain some level of decorum.

I fancied myself a good mom. I truly believed, in the hour just before the alarm guy arrived, that I had raised my kids right and that they would make me proud in any and every situation.

I was even one of those moms that secretly shook her head when the kid in the grocery store started throwing tantrums and embarrassing the mother. And when the mega-brat in the restaurant (you know the one) started squalling and refusing to sit and eat his food, I secretly rolled my eyes.

I always believed that children were a product of their upbringing. I always said, “If you want to figure out why the kids are so bad, just look at the parents.”

I was only actually prepared for a single scenario, and this is what it was: The alarm guy arrives and installs the alarm quickly. Meanwhile, my children and I mill around the house doing our usual things, being well-mannered and downright ideal.

Then, the alarm guy would leave, and he would report back to my husband that his family was “Charming,” and he would tell all of my husband’s co-workers the same.

My husband would be able to hold his head high, and he would be proud of me for being a great mom and proud of the kids for being obedient and well-behaved.

So much of my life is spent like this, with one foot standing on reality and the other sinking irrevocably into an unattainable fantasy. This day was a clear example of that.

The man’s name was Clyde. Poor unsuspecting Clyde. He was a slightly rotund man with a kind round face and trusting eyes.

I greeted him and asked him a few questions. Mostly because I was supposed to, not because I had a burning interest. He answered excitedly, as though he believed that I did have a burning interest.

And I did, through this exchange, learn an interesting bit of information about Mr. Clyde. As it turned out, Clyde had three jobs. I knew that he worked with my husband and that he installed alarms on the side, but what I did not know was that Clyde was a pastor!

His being a pastor made me want to raise the bar a little higher. I was determined to show this man what an excellent family we were. Then he would go back and not only tell my husband about it but also God himself.

He began his work, and I began mine. There was a thin sheetrock half wall between us. It was there only to stand as a partition between people entering through the front door and the rest of the house.

It was as though the architect said, “Well, let’s let them get fully inside before we give away too much of the view. I’ll just put up this little wall right here so that they can’t see around it until they’ve taken 3 or 4 steps inside, you know, to make sure they are fully committed to entering. We can call this a foyer (fancy talk for a little blip of a room that nothing fits in except a skinny table barely big enough to hold a set of keys and an umbrella stand).”

Directly across from the half wall was a coat closet. It was inside this closet that Clyde was installing the panel box for our new alarm system. On the other side of the wall was where I positioned myself with my oldest daughter.

We were doing the most traditional and iconic of household tasks, folding the laundry. We chattered away happily. She told me all about her friends and the characters in the book that she was reading, the plans that she had for a drawing that she was working on, and a myriad of other topics.

She was ten years old, and her sweet young voice was delightful as it floated through the room and made its way around the half wall to Clyde’s ears. I found myself missing some of the content of her words because I was so distracted by the joy of knowing that Clyde was hearing her and was thinking many fine and complimentary thoughts about her and, by extension, me.

I was so enamored with this direction of thought that I missed her words and asked her to repeat the last comment she had made.

So I will stop here and take a moment to go over what was really happening here. I was filled with what the bible refers to as “Pride,” I was also eaten up with what the Bible calls “A haughty spirit.” And as the bible says, not to get too preachy, I was headed for a fall!

And then I fell.

She repeated what I had missed a little more clearly and a little more loudly so that I would be certain not to miss it again. And also, Clyde got a second chance to hear it too. Just in case he somehow, as he was standing just a few feet away behind the half wall, wasn’t able to hear her words.

“Mommy, the skid marks in your underwear are even worse than mine.”

Silence was all I had to offer after that. I looked at her face then, and it seemed innocent, as though she was blissfully unaware of the inappropriateness of her words. It was as if she could not see the mortification coloring my face, around the Mom sized pink panties she was holding stretched out between her raised hands, sporting the skid mark reported to be worse than the smaller, lesser skid mark of her own panties. It was as if she couldn’t hear the scream of utter humiliation rattling just inside my throat, threatening to leap out and upon her. It was as if she was crazy!

Thankfully, the oldest boy, younger than the oldest daughter by 18 months, came down from his room. His rhythmic clomping down the stairs brought with it a much-appreciated distraction.

Perhaps Clyde hadn’t even heard; I lied to myself. Maybe he was so distracted by his work that he wasn’t even paying attention to our conversation. Perhaps he was from a slightly more refined family and had no idea what a “Skidmark” was. Maybe Clyde was deaf and had only been able to talk to me earlier by reading my lips. Maybe Clyde wasn’t even really there. Perhaps I had just imagined Clyde and the space behind the half wall was utterly void of human life, empty, vacant.

I was starting to feel better and turned all of my attention to listen to my approaching angel, my wee little 8-year-old savior, who was making a beeline to his mother. His face and body language as he approached made it clear that he was on a mission. He had something to tell me.

He didn’t wait until he had made it across the kitchen and reached a polite speaking distance. You see, he had no time for that. Within himself, he carried a burning question. It needed an answer! So, at the moment his foot first reached the floor from the last step and he turned and made eye contact with me, he had already begun the process of asking his question.

His lips were already forming the words, and they were already speeding their way through the space between us at a volume immensely elevated to compensate for the distance at which they were being hurled, when I suddenly remembered to be afraid.

If I had learned nothing else from my skid mark shock treatment, I had at least learned to be very afraid of what might come out of the mouths of my babes!

I think that my son’s words probably reached my ears at around the same time as they reached Clyde’s.

“Mom! Have you ever heard of a Vagina Dinosaur?”

There are just no words. I’m sure that it was only a coincidence, but I really could have sworn that I heard a sound come from the coat closet that held my eavesdropping guest. It was some combination of a chuckle and a thud.

I should, as hostess, have gone to check on him in case he had swallowed his hammer upon hearing my son’s question. But since looking into Clyde’s eyes would have been greatly outside of my abilities, at that very moment, Clyde was on his own.

So how is it that one answers such a question as this? My husband, upon hearing the details later, said that he had, in fact, not only heard of it, but he actually possesses a Vagina Dinosaur of his very own and even offered to show it to me.

But since I had never heard of one, and since my embarrassment had me paralyzed as though it were rigor mortise, I could only weakly squeak out, “No, I have never heard of a Vagina Dinosaur.”

My son just turned and left me, in a hurry, no doubt to continue with his sinister musings, up in his room.

Clyde left without saying goodbye. I think that perhaps we had an unspoken understanding that all of our future conversations should be unspoken and that we never wanted to see each other again.

To my knowledge, he never uttered a single word to my husband or any of their co-workers about his visit to our home. But I’m willing to bet that there were a couple of much-needed prayers sent up for my family and me that following Sunday at his church.

(See “Vaginasaurus” to gain a more in-depth understanding of the Vagina Dinosaur)

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