Saturday night, I was reading in bed, something I increasingly find I have to do in order to fall asleep. I had re-read the same paragraph for the third time and considering calling it a night when the mattress beneath my feet moved. The movement was accompanied by a thumping sound, as if something were under the bed. I froze, as I often do in nightmares when I'm unable even to speak, let alone jerk away and escape. What was it? I tried to rationalize myself out of my panic. Even if ghosts were real, which they're not, I told myself, no ghost in its right mind would wait over 13 years to make its presence known.
The movement and thumping continued as I worked my way down my mental checklist of what couldn't be causing it: An animal? It sure sounded like one, but how big would an animal have to be to be felt through the box springs and mattress, and how could one have gotten into the house? Even though I knew it wasn't an animal, I reacted as if it were - by kicking the mattress where it was moving. I was rewarded when the motion and noise stopped, about half a minute or so after it had begun.
I lay there, my heart pounding. I didn't dare get out of bed - not because I thought there was anything more nefarious than boxes of too-small sweaters underneath, because that would be crazy, but I couldn't make myself dangle a foot over the edge, let alone get up. I wanted to call out for my husband but didn't for fear of waking my daughters and - more importantly - looking like a fool. It was all too easy to picture his patient, indulgent smile as he reassured me that I couldn't possibly have felt anything and that he'd take a look at the flap over the drier vent sometime soon. Instead, I turned my cell phone back on, in case whatever it was returned and I needed to summon him immediately. I moved to the center of the bed, away from the spot where the Thing had attacked, opened my book, and tried to concentrate. It was a long time before I turned off the light.
The following morning, when I read about the late-night earthquake near Oklahoma City, I felt relieved ("Oh, not an animal, just an earthquake!") and vindicated ("I'm not crazy!"). My husband, who'd been in the basement at the time, had felt a vibration and heard a noise like our front-loading washing machine on spin cycle but hadn't let it trouble him beyond a fleeting "that's odd." Both my daughters had slept through it, much to my fourteen-year-old's disappointment. In our sun-lit dining room, around our cluttered table, it was easy to make light of the fear I'd felt the night before and my illogical solution to the bed's shaking.
It was even easier to joke about it the following day when a coworker and I regaled our fellows with tales of the big quake - none of them had noticed it. "It was like someone was under my bed, banging on it," my coworker said.
"Yeah, exactly," I agreed.
"When it stopped, I ran into Carter's room to make sure he was okay."
Oops. Does this mean I'm a bad mom? I'm no Sarah Conner, but I like to think I'd fight to the death to keep my children from harm. Then a little bump under the bed unnerves me so much I can barely move. Having spent most of my life in Kansas, the thought that I was experiencing an earthquake never crossed my mind, but neither did the thought that I should check on my kids - do I get bonus points for not wanting to wake them, at least? I reassured myself with the thought that I wasn't a bad mom, we're just raising our children to be self-sufficient.
My eleven-year-old, for the past two evenings, has taken great pleasure in saying things like, "Watch out for 'animals'" or "Don't let the thing under the bed bite" when I'm tucking her in. Worse, she says this with a completely earnest face and just a hint of snark. I love being the butt of an eleven-year-old's jokes. Maybe we've raised them to be too self-sufficient... I'll see if I can go convince my husband to help me give her bed a few quick shakes.