I really went back and forth a lot on whether I wanted to post this story, but eventually I decided to share. So, going in reverse chronological order from my last post, here is more of our Thanksgiving holiday.
We left for Pensacola on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. We got there in time to have chili at Gary’s mom and dad’s house, then we headed to our hotel. We got there pretty late, so we quickly put the kids in bed then started to settle in. We had brought a bottle of red wine with us, and sat down to have a glass of wine, but the wine was not good. So, we just put it back in the kitchen and decided to just skip it. We left most all of our bags on the dining room table and barely unpacked, and eventually decided to just head to bed.
Thanksgiving morning, I was up bright and early to make sure we got out to the beach early when the light was as good as possible so that I could get some good photos of the kids. We got the kids up and dressed and quickly left. We ate at the hotel’s breakfast buffet, then headed out to the beach for some photos. It didn’t go as well as I had hoped, and I was particularly disappointed that I didn’t really get any photos of Penelope. We tried – but it just didn’t work out so well for us. Plus Henry decided that he hated sand, and Rosemary decided that she preferred to throw sand, and so on and so forth. After the beach, we went back up to the hotel room and were going to clean up before heading to Gary’s parent’s house for our Thanksgiving meal. Once we got to the hotel room, I told Gary that we should go out on the balcony (which was huge – really long and even had a dining table and chairs on it!) and take a photo of Gary holding Penelope with the beach in the background. We were on the 11th floor, but I thought that it could still be a decent photo.
Of course we didn’t want to have the kids running around on the balcony, so we left them inside and went out on the balcony to take some photos. That also didn’t go very well. So, I said let’s just go on in and we’ll try again later. I grabbed on to the handle of the sliding glass door and pulled. It didn’t move. I pulled again. It still didn’t move.
Okay, before I get into this story any more, I want to give a bit of a statement. A lot of you will get a kick out of this and laugh – I’ve talked to many people who have. Some of you will feel my pain and be horrified – and again I’ve talked to a few people who felt that way as well. I keep hearing that one day we’ll look back on this and laugh, but honestly, I can’t imagine ever laughing at this. I can understand why other people can laugh, but having lived through it, I cannot laugh about this now or at any time in the conceivable future. That being said, I will harbor no ill will if you choose to laugh. Back to the story. . . .
Gary was still holding Penelope. I took her from Gary and moved out of the way for him to open the door. It didn’t open. I immediately went to the sliding glass door off of our bedroom – it was locked. Then I checked all the windows, but none of them were the kind that even opened. Our phones were inside. When I got back to the door, Gary was on his knees trying to talk Henry, and later Piper, into unlocking the door. They seemed to try, but didn’t really understand what Gary was asking them to do.
We are on the 11th floor of our hotel building. Our 3 two-year-olds were inside a hotel room that we’d done almost nothing in other than sleep – and we had no idea what all was in there that was not childproofed. All we could see from the balcony door was the living area and kitchen – we couldn’t see either of the bathrooms or either of the bedrooms. And we couldn’t get to our kids. And they couldn’t let us in.
As all of this was hitting me, I told Gary that we could either bust out a window or yell down at the folks at the pool and beach for help. Unfortunately for us, since Hurricane Ivan hit Pensacola, the hotels on the beach were required to use special hurricane glass. As Gary said, “They could shoot a 2x4 100 mph at this window and it would bounce off.” No way he could break the window, even if he used the furniture on the balcony. So, the only option was to yell down for help.
Honestly, I’m still shocked at how little help the beachgoers were. You’d think that two adults yelling for “help” off a balcony while holding a baby would get some attention, but no. Some people would ask what we needed and then just ignore us. FINALLY, someone listened for long enough to get our room number and then went inside for help. But, he never came back out to let us know the status of things. At some point, we thought that there may be someone at the door because of how Henry was acting, but they still weren’t getting in.
Then Gary reminded me that I’d deadbolted everything on the door!! The door just had one of those lever handles, and when you just flip the main deadbolt, it releases when you pull down on the door handle. Knowing that my kids would probably be trying to open the door at some point, I also used the latch that only allows the door to open a couple of inches.
After what seemed like way too much time passed, we started yelling down at the pool and beach again. And again, we were mostly ignored. Then I told Gary to start telling people to dial 911. That finally got the attention of two men – one who dialed 911 from the pool and another that ran in to call.
During all of this, we’re also watching the kids with complete free reign of an unfamiliar place. One of the first things they did was pull the dining room chair over to the kitchen counter and start playing with all the things they usually can’t touch. They played with our phones. They were putting on my rings and watch, and playing with the nebulizer and breast pump. Then they saw that bottle of red wine we’d left out, uncorked, and mostly full. Gary was literally banging on the door screaming “NO!” and begging them not to drink it. At some point, all three of them had some of the wine. Thank God they didn’t like it any better than we did. Then they found one of packets of medicine to use with the nebulizer, which is intended to be inhaled. They managed to get one open and drank it (according to Poison Control, ingesting one packet is not a problem). They found my gallon-sized ziploc bag that contained all the medicine we may ever need for them – Motrin, Tylenol, vitamins, Mylicon, Claritin, Singulair, etc., etc. Thankfully, they never got any of those things opened since they were in childproof containers.
They ate two tubes of Gary’s chapstick. Then they got Gary’s wallet and brought it over to the window to show us. We watched them pull every card, picture, and dollar bill out of his wallet. And we watched them start tearing everything (to be clear, at this point we were thrilled that they may tear up some money). At one point, we couldn’t see Piper, so we asked Henry where she was. He walked up to a closet next to the kitchen and opened it up, and Piper walked out screaming. Apparently she had gotten in there somehow and couldn’t get out.
All in all, we were stuck on the balcony for about an hour. The things that were going through my mind during all this is just insane. First and foremost, I was terrified for the safety of my kids and thought of a lot of dark things that I don’t want to ever think about again. We are the super-safety parents who childproof everything and follow all the rules to the extreme, and yet somehow we found ourselves in this position.
Gary stayed at the door almost the entire time (unless he was yelling down for help). I couldn’t watch. I’d hear someone cry or yell and I’d run over and then not be able to do anything and just walk off, leaving Gary there to watch alone. I couldn’t bear it. Penelope was hungry, so finally I just sat down on the outdoor dining set to nurse her. She was oblivious that anything was going on other than her meal. I remember sitting there thinking about how absolutely surreal it was to be doing something so normal while I was in the middle of possibly the biggest family emergency I’ve ever been in. Then, at some point, Gary screamed, “They’re here!” and I heard the door open. I ran in, still nursing Penelope (I didn’t think about how odd that must have been until later). I made sure the kids were okay, then we immediately began assessing damage (exactly how many packets of the nebulizer medicine did they eat, what did they find that we didn’t see, etc.).
I can only imagine what the folks who got in the door thought when they saw us. Apparently, it took the building engineer to get us out because I’d deadbolted everything. The hotel manager was also there, as well as the concierge. They walked in and there were 3 wild two-year-olds with wine on their faces and clothes, medicine everywhere, cash everywhere, then Gary and I run in like crazy people and I was in the middle of nursing a baby. I never even thought about crying until that point, and I started bawling. I’m sure everyone thought we were insane, but then after all that we’d been through I imagine they’d understand.
They left us alone pretty quickly, and Gary called Poison Control about the nebulizer medicine. Then Gary checked the wine to see how much was missing, and it couldn’t have been much more than was on their clothes. We all took baths, then I unpacked and cleaned everything up. Partly because I needed some order, and partly because I wanted things to look nice when the police or social workers showed up (but for the record, no one ever showed up to interview us, which surprises me). Finally, we were all ready and left to have our Thanksgiving meal, and it was like nothing out of the ordinary had happened at all that day, other than the fact that I kept shaking and feeling my heart race all day.
Before we left on Friday, Gary finally went over to the door to check it out. We had assumed that the kids had somehow locked us out, but it turns out that the door latch would lock on its own when the door shook the slightest bit. We very well could have managed to lock ourselves out when we slammed the door shut when we walked out onto the balcony. Of course we’ll probably never know what really happened.
Thankfully, we are all okay, except that Gary and I lost a few years off of our lives.
And here’s the photo of Penelope from the balcony, which I couldn’t even bring myself to edit, right before we found out we were locked out:
Despite the beautiful baby, not worth it at all.
The next (and probably last) Thanksgiving post will be of the photos from the beach that morning, before everything went crazy.