Earthquakes and Me, an Action-Adventure Heroine?

Originally posted April 18, 2008

I can feel the crankies coming on already, thanks to a good dream cut short by the appearance of a not so little person at my bedside before dawn this morning. Noah, my nine-and-a-half-year-old, isn’t sure what woke him up and prompted him to climb into bed with us, but I have a hunch: an earthquake.

Measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale at its epicenter downstate in West Salem, Illinois, the latest rumblings to emerge from what is known as the Wabash Valley Fault Zone (adjacent to the New Madrid Fault Zone) were felt by folks in states as far away as Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio and Missouri and certainly caused a ruckus in neighboring communities in Indiana and Kentucky (no deaths or injuries reported thus far, and none expected). Seismic readings from this area aren’t news, but seismic activity measuring above 3 on the Richter scale does get folks’ attention – and gets them out of bed.

Since the births of my children I’ve been fiercely protective of the little sleep I do get. This is critical, if I’m to gracefully tolerate the chaos and nonsense that happens in a life blessed with kids. If you’ve been a parent for more than a blissful nano-second, you can relate. There isn’t much that can persuade me to sacrifice more sleep, but six years ago I wondered: not even the threat of death?

One Saturday morning in the Spring of 2002 when we lived in Providence, Rhode Island, I woke abruptly at 6:38 wondering why the bed was shaking. I leapt from my bed fancying myself an action-adventure heroine. (Hey, every mother is, right?) I hesitated in my bedroom doorway as I noticed the old hook on my bedroom door frame swinging wildly. It repeatedly hit the door jamb with a pinging sound, and the mirror above my dresser swayed back and forth. I wasn’t imagining the tremors. I ran down the hall possessed with the mission of scooping my babies out of their beds and running for cover when suddenly I stopped in my tracks, three feet from Holly’s crib. They’re actually asleep, I realized.

I recall that baby Holly had me up half the previous night with teething pain, and I was pooped. I decided I’d have to be completely mad to wake them. Not unless this is a real earthquake! I remember thinking.I tiptoed backwards out of her room, went back to bed and hoped for the best.

You read that right: I went back to bed!

I’m not asking for much – just enough sleep so that I can walk without stumbling through the next day, through the Cheerios and Happy Meal toys that will no doubt surface again, every day, in spite of my efforts to keep them picked up.

Later that morning, after the kids woke up and I turned on the news, I learned that those tremors I felt in Providence came from an earthquake registering at 5.1 on the Richter scale at the epicenter 230 miles away in upstate New York (today’s quake was approximately the same distance from Chicago). My husband was so jealous. He’d risen early, and was so absorbed in his work at the kitchen table downstairs that he hadn’t noticed a thing. He didn’t really believe me until he saw the news himself.

Noah, then three-and-a-half, got excited by our earthquake debate.

“I want to cool off the earth Mommy,” he announced. “Make some ice cubes. I want to pour them into a hole to cool off the earth.” There really is no rest for the weary.

It occurs to me now that maybe little Noah was on to something. A cure to global warming, perhaps?

 My head hurts. I'm going back to bed.  
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