When I was thirteen, I used to babysit for the Smith family two houses up the rural road from us. There were three little girls younger than six, and they were easy to take care of. It was the parents who were the problem.
One night I had the girls all tucked in bed, sound asleep, so I settled down in a big comfy chair to read until the parents came home. They had said they’d be home before midnight. But midnight came and went, then 1:00 a.m.,then 2:00 a.m. Something bad must have happened, I worried as I started to pace back and forth from living room to kitchen.
Finally, at about 2:30 a.m., I heard the Smith’s pickup in the driveway. I hurried to the kitchen to unlock the door so they could get in, and I returned to my chair, expecting them to walk in within minutes. Fifteen long minutes went by. No one came in. I went out to the kitchen and looked out at the driveway and yard. I was totally caught off guard by what I saw.
The house was built sort of like a split level house, with the main living area up four steps from the ground level back door. As I looked out the kitchen window, I could see the back door entrance where I was shocked to see two legs of someone on the ground. Realizing instantly they were Mrs. Smith’s legs, I decided she was sitting on the ground leaning against the back door. Before I could catch my breath, I suddenly heard Mrs. Smith screaming my name, saying, “Sonvy, call the police! He’s going to kill me!”
Then I could see Mr. Smith close to his wife, staggering around and waving his arms threateningly while he swore and yelled angrily. “Oh my God,” I thought, “He’s dead drunk and just might kill her like she said.” I quickly re-locked the door, this time to keep them out.
I knew the Smiths were drinkers, but they’d never come home this late or this drunk before. I ran to the phone and dialed the police. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. . . . I counted eighteen rings, and still no answer. “For God’s sake,” I practically shouted at the phone. ” What if someone was dying?” Then a recorded voice came on. “You have reached the Police Department but all lines are busy at this time. Please hang up and try again later. “Great!” I groaned in disbelief. “I guess I’m on my own!”
I was experienced with angry drunks since my father was an alcoholic and had put our family through some scary nights when we’d called the sheriff. But I’d always had Mom and my brothers nearby. Tonight I was alone. My heart was pounding like it would jump out of my chest and I was starting to panic. Only one thing to do. If the police can’t help, call Mom! I only hoped Dad wasn’t in the middle of one of his drunken tirades too and would complicate Mom’s coming.
The phone only rang twice. “Hello,” she said tentatively. I was so grateful to hear her voice, I almost started crying as I told her what was happening. “I’ll be right over,” she assured me calmly. “I’ve been awake anyway, worrying about you over there so late.”
Hanging up the phone at last, I checked to see Smiths were still outside at the door and then planted myself at the window to watch for Mom. From our house, two houses down the lane, I knew she would follow a dirt path through a row of huge cottonwood trees, that all the neighborhood kids used to go to each others’ houses.
There in bright moonlight I could see a white figure making its way along the path, disappearing from sight every so often in the shadows of the giant trees. Mom was still wearing her white nightgown! Then another shape appeared behind her. My eldest brother, a sixteen year old, 6’1″ broad-shouldered young man, was coming too! Almost giddy with relief, I scurried out to the kitchen to check on the Smiths. I could hear two voices yelling, so at least I knew they were both still alive.
Experienced at calming an angry drunk, Mom and my brother took the Smiths in tow and helped them into the kitchen. Like counselor-cops at work, Mom and my brother sat them down to drink black coffee calm down, and sober up enough to get to bed.
Mom walked me home while my brother kept guard on the couple,who were now almost docile. Mom figured he could handle things from then on. I chalked the night up to experience and decided calling the cops wasn’t such a sure-fire rescue plan after all. Better have a plan B, like calling my mother to come running in her nightgown!