An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

Fire drill

The last three days have been a clumsy stumble through my thoughts and over my feet, and suddenly I’m gripped with almost paralyzing fear. I expected to feel profound sadness, but I didn’t know I’d get this scared. Fear over absolutely nothing and then everything all at once. It’s like a scene in a movie where you suddenly notice the ghost of a little girl peeking inside the window.

This morning at 5 AM the smoke detectors in my room and Leta’s room started beeping. The piercing sound lasted about ten seconds and then stopped just as abruptly as it had started. Five minutes later the smoke detector in Marlo’s room followed suit. This duet between sets of detectors continued every five minutes, and I held Leta in my arms the entire time, her body trembling with the idea that the house was about to burn down, her quivering lower lip a physical manifestation of what is going on inside my heart.

I turned on the monitor to check on Marlo, and since she was just lying in her crib singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star — well, a sort of warbling hybrid of that and the Isty Bitsy Spider because songs are just continuations of other songs, it’s all just music to her — I decided to leave her to her party while Leta and I checked the house to see if anything was amiss. She gripped my leg as I walked, the same way I used to grip my mother’s leg when I was scared. My older child looks almost nothing like me, but the differences stop there. Every molecule of blood in our bodies flows to a shared rhythm.

Nothing in the house was out of place, and while I looked at the map of circuit breakers in the basement with my wild-haired miniature worrier wrapped around my waist the smoke detectors decided to go back to sleep.

“Why did they make that noise, Mom?” she asked.

I shrugged. “I’m not sure,” I answered. “I guess they just malfunctioned.”

“But why?” she pressed.

“I don’t know, Leta,” I said. “I’m sorry. Sometimes I just don’t know the answer.”

  • susanruffin

    I’m envious. I have the 1/2 foot Jack Russell terrier ‘Scout’ as my smoke detector. The house may burn down but by God not one truck will come through my bedroom…(P.S. I’m scared when my husband is not around also)

  • NHMaman

    I am often home with just my two kids for various reasons. As you overcome the fear, you’ll feel a sense of pride and self-sufficiency (in a 21st century call-the-electrician kind of way).

    One night I heard scratching in the living room wall, only to wake up to see an apple-sized hole where a squirrel had chewed into the LR. Eventually I succeeded in my quest to return to squirrel-free living.

    Ah, if only it were just a squirrel. Many times the fear is amorphous, but you are surrounded by capable people, a caring community, family, friends. Life is full of “what if’s” and they’re multiplied in difficult times. Just know that you are strong and help is always nearby.

  • kristanhoffman

    A) Those bastards always go off in the middle of the night. Never in the middle of the day. It’s a Smoke Detector Law.

    B) Sometimes you don’t know the answer, and sometimes there is none. Sometimes things just malfunction for no real reason at all.

  • lunacydress

    I housesat for my inlaws this summer when they were on vacation. They live about 5 minutes from where I work, but about 15 miles from where my husband and I live, so I slept over at their house for the two weeks they were gone to take advantage of the short commute on workdays (and my husband came there on the weekends).

    They have one of those newfangled McMansions with a security system. Sometimes I think those things make you more paranoid than they are effective, but that’s just me. Before they left, they showed me how to use it and I turned it on when I left the house and when I got home, with the motion detectors off. When I went to bed, I’d turn the motion detector on everywhere but the bedroom I was in.

    On the third night or so, I screwed up the motion detector thing when I went to bed, and it went off. LOUD BWOOP BWOOP BWOOP BWOOP. Got it turned off and the security company called within a minute to make sure everything was okay. I told them it was, just human error.

    About a week into the stay, I go to bed, set everything correctly, and I’m *just* falling asleep when BWOOP BWOOP BWOOP BWOOP BWOOP starts. I jump out of bed and I’m trying to make it stop, but I think I just fumbled too much and I couldn’t do it. The security company called and asked if everything was okay, and I said, “I don’t know- this time it wasn’t my fault.” “Do you want us to call the police?” “Yeah, I think you should- I know I didn’t do it this time and I’m alone.” They called the police, but the thing’s still going off and they said they couldn’t deactivate it, it was something I had to do on my end.

    It was reasonably warm outside, around midnight in a secluded upscale neighborhood, and I couldn’t stay in there with the BWOOPing, so I went outside to stand in front of the house. I figured if someone was in the house, I’d have a better chance running away outside than within the house. The cops got there in a few minutes and came in, checked the perimeter of the house, the basement, etc…..nothing looked wrong. They were very nice and we figured out together how to get the alarm to turn off.

    I emailed my inlaws about what happened and they said, “Why don’t you just leave it turned off from now on. They called us a few weeks ago and mentioned that the system battery is about at its expiration date and we should replace it. We just haven’t had a chance to do it and we get charged if the police come out for false alarms.”



    Anyway, I know how jarring that is in the middle of the night, and add in kids and the current stress in your life…oy. Hang in there, Heather.

  • Riggledo

    And somehow I don’t think we’re talking about the smoke detectors any more. ((hugs))

  • delpien

    sometimes i hate technology

  • Deserex

    My heart hurts for each of you. I wish I could give you a hug and tell you that it will all be okay.

  • taylor

    this made me cry. give yourself permission to take baby steps.

  • pvedmom

    This is odd. Our fire alarms are doing the same thing. Ours go off about 3:00 AM when they do for about 10 seconds. Every time however, I come up flying out of bed and barreling through the house looking for the fire and my kid making sure he’s okay. It’s really unnerving. I feel for you guys.

    And the other part everything is scarier when you are by yourself. I am pushing 50 and in the middle of the night or early morning and the unexpected occurs I hate it.

    Hang in there.

  • EliBailey

    When I was going through my separation/divorce I was also scared and very frustrated a lot of times with things my ex always took care of or helped with. I had a few meltdowns trying to fix things by myself and at one point threw a corelle plate down so hard that it shattered into a million tiny pieces that spread over my entire living room/dining room area. I was shocked because those things aren’t really supposed to break, but when it did it was an incredibly satisfying feeling. I know you can’t really scream and cry or break things in front of the kids, but when you’re alone sometimes it feels really good to just let it all out.

    It will get better. I almost hated hearing that when I was in the middle of it because it seemed like I was just fumbling around in complete darkness and hearing it will get better was like someone saying there’s light there, you just can’t see it. But it really WILL get better. You just keep going and going and going and then finally one day it won’t be so dark any more. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  • tonya

    “Every molecule of blood in our bodies flows to a shared rhythm….”

    That was beautiful and took my breath away because I can relate. My mini-me is me inside and out. And at seven, when she’s battling anxiety for no other reason than her DNA, it breaks my heart. We’re having a rough patch right now, and as her mother, I’d take all those feelings unto myself if only I could. But since I can’t, I hope she takes some comfort in knowing she’s understood and that I’m in her corner fighting my own battles right beside her.

  • gcostaki

    Maybe you have monkeys. Which would suck.

  • Mhowardsaratoga

    Good luck! I have had a similair situation and we have called our electrician. Two things — spiders 7 drywall dust make them go haywire. We’ll have an “episode” with them once a year or so. Good luck and thanks for all you do for me and all the readers out here. Pulling for you!

  • mama_c

    I created an account just so I could log in and tell you that I’m thinking of you and your family. I am so sorry that you – all of you – are going through this.

    I also wanted to thank you for posting your thoughts, feelings, and experiences through this. I ended a dysfunctional, unhealthy, and miserable relationship 9 months ago. Complicating everything is the fact that we have a (now) 18 month old son together. To say that the past 9 months have been hard doesn’t do justice to the horrendous daily reality that has been my life. We are in our 30’s and unfortunately, unlike you and Jon, have most certainly NOT been acting like 2 level-headed adults. I fear that my guilt over this will never leave me. These are my darkest, darkest days. Anyway, I appreciate reading your words and I appreciate the community here.

  • motherhoodontherocks

    When we first moved into our house, our smoke detectors would do that. Very weird. Hope you were able to get some sleep!

  • kristinec55

    I have to say that this post made me cry like a baby and I now I have snot hanging out my nose… I wish I had something better to say. I have been a single mom of two girls myself for the last 3 years, and my biggest fear is not having an answer. “It gets easier” I have been told, and “You’ll find answers”, but sometimes being honest and just saying you dont know is the only answer. My heart goes out to you Heather, but I will keep the snotty tissue for myself.

  • CateinTO

    Bizarrely, when my ex and I split up, on one of my first nights alone in our house, I had a smoke detector malfunction too. It was a different reason than yours — they weren’t wired in — but there was an incessant “battery going” beeping, and I checked every bloody one, and it wasn’t any of them, and it wouldn’t stop. I was weeping with frustration and loneliness and a sense of the huge huge weight of Making a New Life ahead of me. I eventually asked my neighbour to come over, a neighbour I didn’t like much, and who didn’t like me much. We finally figured out that I’d somehow (why? why?) stashed a smoke detector behind a pile of files in my office and this was the one that was going off. I ripped the battery out viciously, thanked the neighbour and just dissolved in a heap. Not a pretty memory. It does get better.

  • rebekahamy

    I have read your blog for years now. I just want to say that it makes my heart so sad that you are experiencing the pain you must feel from separation. I hope very much that things can get better. And I hope its okay that I wish very much that you guys reconcile. You are a smart, funny, beautiful woman. I wish your family the best.

  • edgyveggie

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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