Over the last few months, I've been ridiculously scatterbrained. For example, there was the time a few weeks ago when I dropped my boarding pass three times before my return flight from Portland--and then dropped my keys in the park that same afternoon. (Thankfully, a kind citizen saw the YMCA key fob and returned them to my gym.)
And then there was this past Monday. Because I know I'm prone to forget my keys when I leave the house, I have a longstanding habit of checking my purse and verifying, aloud, "Got my keys." That's exactly what I did before I left to pick up Allyson. Keys in hand, I pivoted in my tracks when my stomach growled savagely. A quick glance at the stove clock told me I had time to grab the heel from a freshly baked loaf of whole wheat bread (from fresh ground flour, of course). I tried to wrestle open the bread canister with one hand but finally gave up and set the keys down so I could release the four locks. After an agonizingly slow squirt of ridiculously thick honey, I grabbed my purse and the bread and ran for the door, twisting the lock and slamming it behind me.
At the car, I realized the keys were missing and gave an exasperated groan as I fished through the inner zipper compartment of my purse for my car's valet key. Yes! No need to sprint a mile to Allyson's school and get the bad mother of the week award for being 15 minutes late. (Yes, it would take me at least that long to "sprint" a mile. Cardio just isn't my thing.)
I ran a few errands, trying to kill time until Ethan came home, but it turned out he had band practice after school. Not that he would have been much help. Too bad he'd lost his house key just a few days before. And too bad the last working garage door opener had quit just two weeks earlier, and both doors were firmly locked. But surely one of the back doors would be open.... Nope.
I thought back to the time Bill had been locked out. "Didn't Daddy climb through Ethan's window?" I asked Allyson. "How did he get up there?"
"Maybe a ladder," she said.
"No, the ladder's in the garage."
"If he found a way up, so can I."
I dragged the picnic table under Ethan's window and retrieved a metal chair from the shed.
"Shouldn't you just call Daddy?" Allyson asked. "You might fall and get hurt."
"I'm not asking Daddy for help." I climbed up onto the quite sturdy table and then onto the chair. Gripping two of the horizontal supports of the pergola, I gingerly lifted one foot onto the left arm. The chair just about flipped, and I had to jump back onto the seat. Undaunted, I did a partial pull-up on the pergola and jumped my feet onto both arms at the same time. Nope, way too wobbly to be any help. I climbed back down and thought hard. Maybe if I stacked all four chairs, they would be more stable. Certainly they would make a taller tower.
I dragged the other chairs out from the shed, one by one, and stacked them on the table top. Once I'd caught my breath, I sighed with satisfaction. Much sturdier! I found I could easily balance on the arms of the top chair, but it was a lot harder than I expected to shimmy onto the pergola. The beams were too close together, and way off center compared to the chairs. And they were kind of splintery. I wished I had weight-lifting gloves.
Slowly, slowly I pulled myself up, careful to put weight only on the support beams and not on the netting between them. Allyson, who evidently wasn't that worried about my safety, called from the swing set. "Ha, ha! You're flopping like a fish."
"Uh huh." Grunting, I pulled myself onto my stomach and wiggled my legs up behind me. Sweating now in my fleece jacket, I lay spread-eagle for a moment atop the beams, glancing over my shoulder to the corner of the overhang under Ethan's window. I hadn't realized it was so steep! But I'd come too far to stop now, plus I wasn't entirely sure how to get back down. So I pulled up onto my knees, distributing my weight between two beams--and getting my very first knee splinter, I later discovered.
I carefully maneuvered myself into a squat and then grabbed the corner of the roof as I eased over onto the shingles. I then found I could not stand, let alone walk; my worn walking shoes scrabbled over the surprisingly slick asphalt. So I rested on my left hip, clutching the corner of the roof with one hand and wrestling with the screen with the other.
After breaking three nails without getting the screen loose, I was thinking of aborting the mission--until Allyson called out, "Mama, you're not a boy!"
"Girls can climb, too," I said, just as one corner of the screen pulled free. "Got it!"
I pressed my sweaty palm against the glass and tried to slide it to the right. It didn't budge. What? Surely it couldn't be locked. Ethan's window had been open for a couple of days, up until the latest cold snap, anyway. But surely he'd be too lazy to lock it.
"Find my phone, Allyson," I hollered. "Call Ethan and ask if his window is locked. I'm not getting down until I'm sure it's locked."
As she fumbled with the phone, it dawned on me that I wasn't getting down at all. The roof was way too steep, and I didn't think I could get onto the pergola and back down on that stack of chairs without seeing what I was doing. To make matters worse, my butt was burning. Who knew that shingles could get so hot when it was only in the 60s? I shifted to my knees, carefully shed my jacket, and threw it on the patio.
Just then I saw the neighbor's white truck pull into the driveway behind our house. I heard the door open but couldn't see over the hedge. "Dennis!" I hollered. "Dennis-Dennis-Dennis!"
No answer. Surely he could hear me. I took a deep breath and screamed myself hoarse, "DENNISSS!" Now the whole neighborhood could hear me. Everyone but Dennis. I hollered again.
A tiny voice answered. "It's Leticia."
"Oh. This is Sarah. Do you have a ladder? I'm stuck on the roof."
God bless her, Leticia didn't ask any questions or express any surprise. "I'll be right over," she said. Two minutes later, Allyson let her into the gate with her extension ladder.
She extended it and leaned it against the overhang, right at my feet. "Come on down," she said.
"Let's try to get Ethan first," I said. "I want to make sure this window really is locked." I then walked Leticia through finding Ethan in my contacts, which was about as hard as climbing up onto the roof had been. I'm about the last person left on earth who doesn't have a smart phone. (Even my mom has an iPhone!) At last she and Allyson figured it out, but it went straight to voicemail.
I was pretty scared to climb down, but Leticia calmly talked me through climbing down to squat on the pergola and then sidestep onto the ladder. I descended on shaky legs.
Safely on the ground, I finally got ahold of Ethan, only to learn that yes, he had locked the window and no, he still hadn't found his house key.
"Call Daddy," Allyson urged for perhaps the tenth time.
I humbly explained the situation to Bill, who was just as gracious as Leticia had been. "I'm still at work," he said. "It'll be at least 30 minutes."
"I'm sorry," I said, on the verge of tears. "I'm just being... me."
"What can you do?" Bill answered. "It's no big deal."
The last bit of the adventure was returning the ladder, which we could not figure out how to collapse. I convinced Ethan to carry it for me, but he was inexplicably humiliated over carrying a 12-foot ladder in public. As I lifted my hand to knock on the door, he hissed, "Wait! I don't want them to see me."
I shrugged as he disappeared back around the corner. He has no idea what embarrassing is, I thought. He should try sitting on the roof and shouting "Dennis!"
Oh well. It could have been a lot worse. The only thing bruised is my pride.
P.S. Yes, I am getting two extra keys made and hiding one in a safe place.