Straddling the Guest Room Window
Noah arrived for a sleepover the other day, backpack filled to bursting with a change of clothing, his worn, green blanket and favourite stuffies. Excitement crackled in the kitchen air as he ran around ensuring that all was as it should be: corner cupboard filled with attention-grabbing cans and jars, pull-out drawer with its stash of dried cranberries and nuts, French doors showing a dimming patio and back garden. Then down to the basement to bring up to the living room his nonna’s house stash of toys and books. With Noah at four years old, the setting has to be just so.
As does the food.
“What would you like for supper, tonight, Noah?”
“Pesto pasta!” Of course.
“Why certainly, Sir! I just have to go out to the garage to get the pesto from the freezer. I’ll just be a sec,” I said as I opened the back door and slipped outside. I closed the door behind me to keep the cold out. It promised to be a nippy Fall night.
When I returned from the garage, only steps away, I noticed through the glass of the French door, Noah’s arm raised above his head and holding on to the inside key of the deadbolt. A sinking feeling spread through my gut. A look at his face confirmed my fears: it was filled with apprehension and dismayed surprise.
“It just won’t budge, nonna!” his little voice whined through the glass, his eyes locked on mine.
Despite the terror beginning to displace my main organs, I smiled cheerily and said, “Don’t worry, honey, I’ll just get the spare key from the shed. I’ll be right back.”
I ran to the shed and looked for the key, hanging on the side wall. No key. Then I remembered that we had changed its location so I sprinted to the back door of the garage. I turned on the dim light and began to search in all the usual places. No key. Assuming I must have missed it in the shed, I ran back and took another fruitless look. Panic mounting, I retraced my steps to the garage and made a more thorough search… NO KEY!! Where was it?!
Back at the French door leading to the kitchen, I could see Noah, now in full panic mode, pacing around the main floor of the house: kitchen, dining room, living room. He was talking to himself in pathetic little whimpers, rubbing his head. I called out to him not to worry, that I would soon open the door. In the meantime I asked him to go to the front door – which I knew was locked – to see if he could turn the deadbolt there. Glad for a task, he ran to the front door, but the lock proved too stiff for his little four year-old arms.
“Oh, no…It won’t budge, nonna!” he whimpered, defeated.
“Don’t worry, sweetie, I’ll be in there soon!” The words sounded hollow even to my ears. How was I going to get in there?? I ran a mental check of all the windows. The kitchen window, the only one possibility on the main floor, was locked. That one I was always mindful about locking because it afforded easy access to unwanted visitors. The second story: my bedroom? closed but possibly not locked. The guest room window on the front of the house? Definitely closed but — definitely not locked. I could either break the kitchen window immediately, or try to access the second-story windows with a ladder. Best to do some climbing before the breaking.
Back in the garage, I lowered the longest extension ladder in our possession from its hooks on the side wall and carried it out to the rear patio. I managed to extend it to its full height, grappling with dangling ropes, cumbersome hooks and arthritic shoulders. Eventually, the ladder was placed against the wall just below the bedroom window and I climbed to the top. I quickly removed the screen and dropped it to the ground, where it landed upright against the pink and green playhouse. I hoped it hadn’t bent in the fall. Next, I tried to slide the windowpane backward, using my palms flat against the surface of the glass. There was not even the most minimal of movements. It, like the inside locks, wouldn’t budge. Dejectedly, I climbed back down, not bothering to replace the window screen–the least of my worries at this point–and trudged back to the French doors where I could see Noah pacing even more frantically than before. Once more I reassured him that I would be there soon, that I was going to go to the front of the house. My words didn’t even register through his panic and I knew that I had to work fast.
I was grateful that my husband had taken the car to Vancouver, leaving the garage vacant; this made it possible for me to carry the ladder more easily through the garage and out to the front of the house. Just below the guest bedroom window, I looked up –way up – and hoped that the ladder would reach. I righted the heavy metal contraption and leaned it against the flower box anchored at the base of the window. The tip of the ladder barely extended one inch up the side of the painted, wooden box. I tried to manoeuvre it in such a way that it would be more secure, but finally gave up: it was as good as it would ever get. I climbed to the top of the ‘safe’ part of the ladder and then continued up the spindlier top section, the section one is not supposed to be on. Having no choice, I proceeded, gingerly, mindful of my legs, broken only six months before, fervently hoping that another spill would not land me back into immobilization.
Once at the very top of the ladder, I removed the window screen and rested it on the end of the flower box. I repeated the procedure I had attempted at my own bedroom window, and prayed for more positive results: if the window did not open, I would have to resort to propelling my slippered foot through the kitchen glass. Not a prospect to which I looked forward. Once more I pressed my palms flat against the glass and pulled. Eureka! the window slid open. Elated, I lifted my right leg over the flower-less box and through the opening, hoping the flimsy part of the ladder I was teetering on would not give way. I chanced a glance over my shoulder and, for a moment, wondered at the sight the neighbours were being treated to: what must they be thinking? Hopefully, the couple walking their dog along the street would not feel it their civic duty to call the police. Wait – that could be a godsend! A strong, able, uniformed public servant to publically serve and protect… Well, I couldn’t wait for an arresting officer to come to our rescue, so I carried on.
Once I was sitting astride the window box and window ledge, I looked inside the room and assessed my situation: one foot rested on the uppermost ‘runglet’ of the ladder outside, enjoying the cool evening air; the other foot dangled far below me down the wall of the guest bedroom. I pondered my predicament. I still could not reach the floor. Or the bed. There were at least two feet of dead air space between my recently broken leg and the hard surface of the floor. How was I going to get down?
I could hear Noah pacing and crying in the kitchen below so I called out to him that I was upstairs, that I was in the house. In his distress, he couldn’t hear me, or at least, my words did not register immediately. Eventually, after repeated calls, I heard his little legs running up the steps, jubilation in his voice, “Nonna! nonna! you’re in!” Well, technically. . .
“Yes, I’m here, Noah.” He ran to the bedroom and stopped abruptly in the doorway, looking up quizzically at his grandmother who hung from the window, framed in the panels of blue curtains draped on either side.
“Are you going to get down, nonna?” he asked innocently.
“Oh, yes, I’ll get down, honey. I just have to figure out how to do it. It’s a long way to the floor.” And I don’t want to re-fracture my legs.
“Yes, it is nonna.” He waited for the adult (partially) in the room to come up with the perfect solution. The silence became uncomfortable. The guest luggage chair we had kept in the corner near the window had been stored downstairs. Had it been there, I could have asked Noah to drag it the few feet to my dangling appendage. To ask him to bring one from downstairs was out of the question. In order to get down with any degree of comfort and security I needed something against which to brace myself. Nothing near at hand, draggable by a four year-old, came to mind. Finally, out of desperation, I made a suggestion.
“Noah, please go and get your little stool from nonna’s closet, the one you use when you brush your teeth.”
With the typical exuberance of a male who has been given a task to fulfill as part of a solution to a problem, he ran to my closet, chanting happily: “Get the stool and rescue nonna! Must rescue nonna!” He skipped back, white plastic stool in hand, and placed it underneath my suspended foot. I looked down in dismay; just as I’d predicted, I was still much too far from a safe perch.
“Oh dear,” I mused out loud, “it’s still too low.”
Noah began pacing between my suspended limb and the bed. “Must rescue nonna. Must rescue nonna… Think! Think! Think!” he chanted as he tapped his temple with his index finger in an effort to activate his solution-finder-neurons. I appreciated his zeal, but was no closer to getting to the ground.
In desperation I asked him to go to the basement sink and bring up the red mop which was leaning beside it. I hoped that if I had something more solid to grasp with my right hand, I could perhaps lower myself down to the ground in a more stable, fracture-less fashion.
Again, he jumped at the chance to be pro-active. “Yes, nonna! I will go downstairs to get the mop!” And off ran my hero to accomplish his mission only to return a minute later with the red silicone pastry brush which had been lying on the counter next to the kitchen sink.
“No, honey, that’s not it. Go down to the basement, right next to the washer and dryer, next to Sam’s food dish. There is a tall red mop beside the sink. Bring that up for nonna, o.k.?”
“Oh, yes, nonna! I will!” And off he ran again.
Knowing that chances of the red mop ever reaching me were slim, and that I could not spend the rest of the night in my present half-committed suspension, I gritted my teeth, hung on with both hands to the edge of the open window pane and began to slide my right leg towards the flimsy stool below me. As I inched down, I prayed the window would hold and that I would not end up as a crumpled mess on the floor, impaled by various lethal shards of glass, broken bones jutting through torn skin. Miraculously, my left leg followed the rest of me awkwardly through the opening and the big toe of my right foot eventually touched the stool. I reached ever lower until the whole foot was standing flat on the white plastic. I made my body swivel to the left and dragged the rest of me into the room and down the wall.
I stepped down onto the hardwood floor, both legs intact, and breathed a sigh of relief. Closing the window, I looked outside to see if I’d attracted an audience, but no one seemed too interested in a middle-aged woman scampering up a ladder into a second-story window. Modern times.
Happy to be back on terra firma, I walked the short length of the hallway and down the stairs to the main floor, just as my very helpful grandson was coming up the stairs from the basement dragging a green knitted throw which is kept on the downstairs couch. Not quite the red mop I’d requested, but the little gaffer was trying, I had to give him that.
“Nonna, you’re here!” he shouted excitedly and lunged into my arms for a prolonged embrace. As we hugged and rocked, many I’m sorry nonna’s were said in recognition of a key turning that should not have taken place. We then proceeded to have a very serious talk about locks and keys and not touching what little hands should never touch. Many more I’m sorry’s and I love you’ s were exchanged until all was, once more, well with the world. Then hand in hand we walked into the kitchen. After all, there was still a pesto dinner to be consumed.
Before dinner could be cooked, however, I returned outside, to the front of the house. I climbed the ladder once more and replaced the screen on the guest room window. I then descended the ladder, slid its components back to resting position, carried it to the garage, and hung it on its hooks. When all was put to rights (well, almost all: the back screen, I decided, could wait until the next day), I re-entered the house from the back door – the door from which I had, by this time, removed the tempting key and placed it securely in a high cupboard until such time as Noah would be asleep.