The sound of running water assaulted my senses.
Without looking, I knew —even before I thought it— my son was not in the family room where I had left him mere minutes before. He was no longer safely ensconced in his triple-gated play compound; he had found a way past the eight-foot high stack of gates tethered together.
In a flash of panic it registered. Shit! I forgot to tether the gate!
I didn’t think I’d be gone more than an instant, saying goodbye to my mother in the driveway, when the police officer pulled up outside. We live on a cul-de-sac and have had some problems with our next door neighbor on one side. In fact, the whole court has had problems with this same neighbor which is why the police were involved; one of the elderly neighbors on the other side of us must have called them.
I’m not really sure if my feet even touched the stairs as I raced up them. I remember my shoes flying off my feet as I ran.
At the top of the stairs is the hall bath. The light was on, the water was running and the floor was wet; I couldn’t see into the tub until I got into the room. Relief and panic vied for dominance in the instant I realized Nik wasn’t in the tub. I screamed his name at the top of my lungs.
Nikolas! Where are you, baby?
There was no answer; I didn’t really expect one but my panicked instincts were at full throttle, suppressing all logical thought in the moment. I reached in to turn off the faucet; I remember thinking If Nik comes in here, he can’t drown now.
His bedroom door was closed —it’s always closed to keep the cats from getting into his crib. Still, devoid of lucid thought, I worried about all the dangers lurking upstairs. I threw his door open, expecting to see him happily playing on the floor. The room was empty.
NIKOLAS!! NIKOLAS ERIK!!
My throat was raw. I screamed as my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. I dashed across the top of the stairs to the loft, quickly scanning to make sure he wasn’t under his father’s desk or sitting atop the cat climber —nearly twelve feet above the playroom floor below. Nik’s vision and depth perception would not keep him from attempting to climb over the railing to the room below. Not even realizing I’d been holding my breath, I let out a sigh of relief when I saw the loft was empty.
That’s when the sound of the shower in the master bathroom invaded my consciousness. Somehow, Nik had managed to slip through the very short bungee cord tether we use to keep the cats out (but let air circulate through) and got into our bathroom to play in the shower.
When I got to him, he was partly dressed —shirt askew around his neck and pants and pull-up around his ankles. The shower was running at full pressure —Nik having opened both valves completely—spraying all over the bathroom walls and floor as the door was fully open.
Nik was merrily humming quietly to himself. The cordless telephone was clutched in his hand as it hovered over the toilet bowl. I grabbed the phone and then pulled Nik away from the toilet. He was soaked. The floor was drenched. Lined up on the countertop were the other handset to the phone and the digital camera with the battery compartment wide open —and empty.
I looked into the toilet to see just what he’d done. Floating inside were my husband’s hairbrush, one of my hair styling brushes, the nailbrush which sits by the sink, and the batteries from the camera. (Thank goodness he hadn’t flushed!) I felt my heart unclench in my chest and my breathing became regular again.
Sinking to my knees, I gathered my sopping wet son into my arms, kissing his head. The tears fell fast and hard on his head but I don’t think he noticed; his hair was already wet. Baby, you scared Mama so bad. Please don’t do that again, sweetie, ok?, I choked through my tears.
I stripped my wet boy down and took him to the hall bath to let him play in a tub full of warm water. As he splashed and sang to his bathtub letters, I kept repeating to myself, It’s only stuff. It’s only stuff.