I was in that weird stage of sleep that I think you adopt when you become a parent. You’re still acutely aware of sounds around you, like your daughter crying, but out of it enough to feel like your waking up when your alarm clock rings.
It was that state I was in when I began to hear a baby cry and shuffled through the sound files in my mind trying to place it to one of my children. No matching file was found. It was a distressed cry but too foreign, too young to be one of mine. My parental mode was still kicked into gear enough to nudge my wife, Jodi. “Which one is that?” I asked.
Jodi stirred and pushed an ear out of the warmth of the blankets. Her breathing slowed and I knew that she was trying to place the sound as well. “What do you mean? I don’t hear anything.” She said, settling back into her sleep cocoon.
“One of the kids is crying,” I said, straining my ears to detect the source. “I think it’s Isabella, sounds like her,” I said, basing my decision on the sole fact that she was the youngest and the cry I could hear was definitely from a young baby.
Jodi sat up in bed this time. I thought that at last she heard it too and we would spring into superhero parent mode and save the child from whatever pain was causing her to cry. Jodi rubbed her eyes and did that funny mouth smacking thing people do when they start to wake up. “Nick, there is no baby crying. Their fine, go back to bed.”
“I’m thirsty,” I said, giving me the excuse to walk down the hallway past all their doors to the bathroom to get a glass of water, “do you want something?”
She grunted her response and pulled the blankets around her. My curiosity of this cry has just cost me my share of the blankets for the rest of the night. I could hear the crying baby and that was that. I had no doubt I would be opening a door before I got my water.
I stood in the bathroom drinking my water. The crying baby remained undiscovered but still audible. I decided the water in the bathroom wasn’t cold enough, time to head downstairs to the kitchen. The water out of the pitcher in the fridge would be ice cold. I emptied my glass in the sink and watched for toys as I made my way downstairs.
I don’t remember making it down to the kitchen. I don’t remember anything after I placed my foot on the top stairs. Just waking up when the sun came in the bedroom window enough to touch my face.
I asked Jodi about it and she said she couldn’t remember me waking her up or one of the kids crying through the night. I chalked it up to a bad dream and asked her what she wanted for breakfast. I grabbed my housecoat and started the trek down to get started.
Jodi walked up behind me, I was standing in the entrance to the kitchen. She wrapped her arms around my waist and asked what I was doing. I didn’t respond. She tried to push me into the kitchen, but I wouldn’t budge. Every part of the kitchen was covered in glasses, bowls, coffee cups, pots, pans and anything else that would hold water.
That’s not what stopped me from wanting to go in, though. No. It was the little, wet footprints, just starting to dry on the hardwood kitchen floor that froze me.