Last night, sometime after midnight, I wake to bright headlights that flash in the windows. A truck’s engine turns off, the dog barks furiously, doors slam, feet tread in the mudroom next to my bedroom and commotion clamors in. My son is home for the holidays.
Most of the time when he comes home he sneaks silently into the house, past my bedroom door and up the stairs to his room. It’s usually around 2:30 or 3 in the morning. I’ve learned to sleep through his coming and going when he’s home. Or else I pretend to. Suki, always next to me, sleeps through too and often, the only way I know my son has come home is the warm welcome sight of his red Hummer sitting in the driveway in the morning.
When he’s not home, my son lives in the middle of chaos in some of the most dangerous places in the world. He thrives on adrenaline rushes and functions most efficiently in commotion and turmoil. And last night he brought commotion home with him.
The dog knew it. An affinity for commotion is the only thing my warrior son and my adorable little dog share. Right away, Suki recognizes it. People at the door. Strange people coming into the house is her sign to morph into her guard dog role. She barks and growls uncontrollably. And then it is impossible to play my role as the invisible, deaf, stone-drunk, dead-to-the-world other occupant of the house.
He’d brought friends home for a fast pit-stop before heading out to drive them home. Not wanting to turn on the lights, they stumble over the gymbag I’d left on the floor, the pile of laundry on the staircase and each other. All the while, Suki, in protector mode, is barking non-stop. She weaves her way out of my grasp when I try to catch her. She thoroughly enjoys this opportunity to let loose in the middle of the night.
On other nights, when my son is away, the sounds of squirrels running between the ceiling boards, mice in the walls and raccoons under the deck paralyze me with fear. They do not get a blink from Suki. And when my warrior son is in town I barely notice these sounds myself. I feel safe.
I finally grab Suki and hold her until the growl turns into a squirming squeak. We cuddle there together and listen to the sounds of flushing toilets, doors opening and closing, and finally, the shuffling around of friends trying to find the shoes they’d left off in the mudroom. I stifle a laugh into Suki’s fur. In less than ten minutes the chaos let loose in the house is over. There is a vacuumed whoosh and then silence. I fall back to sleep and wake again a short time later when he creeps back into the house for the night. Suki snores away on her back oblivious. I pretend to sleep although I’m wide awake now. And I don’t mind being awakened twice this night. My son is home. He is safe.