Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On the other side of the door

Have you ever had to climb into your house through a bathroom window? I had this unforgettable experience yesterday.

Around midday, the girls and I were returning home from a play-date visit in a friend's house, tired out and ready for lunch, story time and a nap. I opened the door, let Shira in, and lingered outside with Tehilla to give the chickens some fresh water.

Just as I had my back turned to the door, I heard an ominous click of the door locking from inside.

Now, I'll explain - I have two locks, a lower and an upper one, and the lower tends to get stuck so I only use the upper. The key to the upper lock was in my bag, and the lower lock has a fixed key inside it that can't be removed, and another key which can be used from the outside and which I didn't bother to take with me, because I'm not using it anyway, right? The point is, Tehilla and I were out and Shira was in the house on her own, and there was a locked door in between.

I tried to get Shira to unlock the door, but the lock was stuck once more. All the windows were locked from inside too (for safety reasons) and I couldn't quite get her to understand how to open them. Once it dawned on us that we're separated by a locked door, we both got quite panicky. I heard Shira crying inside and could do nothing - I felt so helpless, my husband has the key but he was at least an hour and a half away.

I called a friend who lives nearby, more for moral support than anything else, and she dashed right over to try and get us to calm down, and to coax Shira to give the key another try from inside. In the meantime, I made a last desperate check of all the windows and discovered - hurray! - that the shower window is unlocked.

Problem is, it's a small window that opens only halfway, and it's right near the ceiling. In a stroke of uncharacteristic technical brilliance, I managed to remove the glass panes, which left a square right below the ceiling, large enough for a rather thin person to climb through (I'm proud to say I was even able to replace the panes later, in correct order).

I found a ladder behind the garden shed, took one of the plastic garden chairs and slipped it through the window into the shower stall so that I would be able to step on it once I swing my feet through the window. I then realized there's no way I'm going to be able to do this in my long denim skirt. Sincerely hoping no one can see this, I slipped out of my skirt, immensely thankful that at least I'm wearing long pants underneath. I then climbed to the top of the ladder, swung one foot over the window, then another (in an acrobatic fit I had no idea I was capable of accomplishing) then I climbed down to the plastic chair - and yes! I was in!

I hurried to my frightened child, comforted her while telling her never, never, never to mess about with the lock again, and swung open the front door, admitting my friend together with her little ones and Tehilla, who was sitting in her stroller all the while, enjoying all the attention and oblivious to anything exciting going on. With a deep sigh of worn-out travellers, my friend and I settled on the couch and sofa to nurse our babies. Finally, rest was at hand.

Later, when I was at leisure to think it all through, it occurred to me how this whole situation illustrates something bigger - the feeling of helplessness, the frustration, the fear; separation from our dearest ones; knowledge of being very close to something precious - so close, yet unable to reach it. And finally, the miraculous discovery of a way to get to it - doing things you didn't think you could do, climbing up a steep ladder, a dangerous - squeezing through a narrow gate, and finding yourself, finally, at the peaceful place your heart so desired - your home.


Mrs David W said...

I understand that feeling all too well.
Thank you for sharing your story, it was well told! I can just picture someone taking the steps you did to get inside. Excellent life application too.

Lady Anne said...

What an adventure! My eldest once locked me out, while my late husband was asleep upstairs. As you did, I tried to explain to her how to unlock the door, with no luck, so asked her go "go get Daddy", but he apparently brushed her off. (He claimed he had no recollection of her trying to wake him.) I finally had to walk about a half mile to a neighbor and call the house, so he would have to answer the phone.

The Lord of the Manor and I live in an old house, and Baltimore is VERY humid (the humidity can be 100% and it's not raining!), so things swell in the summer. I ended up getting stuck one morning *inside* the house, with both the front or back door stuck shut. Like you, I climbed out the bathroom window, and managed to throw my entire body against the kitchen door until it finally opened. I informed my husband we were getting some window a/c units TODAY to dry things out a bit. He didn't argue!

Leah Brand-Burks said...

This just happened to me about two weeks ago, but it was both my children inside, and me out! Glad you all are alright! :-D

THE Princess Bombshell* said...

Whew! What an ordeal! So proud of you, mama! It's not funny at the time-- but can you laugh about it now? :) What did your husband say?! lol He must have been so proud of you, too!

Thank God for good friends! :)

Glad everything worked out! Of course it would. :)

Jaclyn from Manhattan, NYC said...

What a crazy story! I bet you and the children will be laughing over that one many years from now! I'm glad everything turned out OK.

Mrs. Anna T said...


My husband said, "mind you put back the window panes just as they had been before." :o)))

Persuaded said...

Oh, I'm sorry but I LOL'd for real at this post! :-D :-D :-D And when you wrote: "In a stroke of uncharacteristic technical brilliance, I managed to remove the glass panes,"... my goodness, I have so been there!

If it makes you feel any better, I have been in a similar situation more times than I can count. My dear son, sees himself as the man of the house and the protector of his sisters and I. Although this is very sweet and charming and admirable, it's led to a few sticky situations. He went through a phase of being super diligent about making sure all of the doors are locked up tight, which would be great except that I often don't carry my key. eek. I won't go any further except to say that not being the slim svelte young thing that you yourself are things can get pretty embarrassing when one is trying to negotiate an entry into a locked building. *gulp*

I'll leave you to imagine the possibilities;-)

Anonymous said...

Oh you poor things, I can feel the pannic myself. When I was a child a neighbour in a pannic came over to my mother as her toddler had locked himself into the toilet (the window was very small too) and I was asked to climb through the window to unlock the door. That has left quite an impression on me - my parents had installed bolts on the bathroom an toilet doors that were too high for children to reach - even on a stool but now I have a toddler and am looking for a new place to live so I check bathroom door locks to see if they can be opened from the outside etc. I am also fanatical about not being outside (even with the door open) without a key.

Denise in the U.S.A. said...

Oh Anna, too funny now but very scarey at the time. I have been locked out more than once, standing on paint cans and prying screens off with screw drivers. Let me tell you about my daughter and a locked out experience. Once she (13 yo) and my Mother were minding my nephews aged 2 and 4 while the parents were at the hospital for the birth of their new brother. Somehow the boys locked them in the second floor bedroom,(I think the knob came off). My daughter who is still plucky and a take charge girl now that she is married and a mom herself threw a crib matress out the window and jumped! Going around the house until she got in the back door she let her grandmom out. Everyone safe!

SarahF said...


You reminded me of this story by the wonderful shirley hughes. Do try to get hold of a copy if you can. Your girls will love hearing all about Alfie's adventure, I'm sure, especially as Shira will be able to perfectly relate!

Donalacasa said...

When my older two daughters were maybe two and the younger less than a year, we were living in an apartment outside Frankfurt, Germany. The laundry room was 4 flights down in the basement. After making sure the baby gait was up at their bedroom door, I figured I would leave them for just a moment to run down and take the clothes out of the washer and put them in the dryer (yes, I'm a spoiled American and had the base bring me a dryer that stayed in my little storage room). I left the apartment with what I thought were my keys in my hand. Only once the door was already closed and locked did I realize it was my kitchen timer I was holding, not my keys. Not wanting to get locked out of the apartment building, I ran down into the basement and through to the adjacent apartment building next door and somehow communicated to my Italian neighbors who spoke no English and neither of us spoke much German, to let me use their phone. Twenty minutes later Friend Hubby arrived to let me in and we found our girls safe and sound, still watching TV in their room.

That said, I know how you felt! LOL

Anonymous said...

There is a lovely children's book about this: Alfie Gets In First: http://www.amazon.com/Alfie-Gets-First-Shirley-Hughes/dp/1862307830

The Alfie series of stories is lovely; I bet your daughter would like them.