Since it has been so humid and muggy in Southern California this past week, I have been running the air conditioning more than I like. Well, actually I love running the air conditioning, I just hate to waste that much electricity and I hate to pay the bill at the end of the month. There was a time when I would torture the kids and myself by refusing to turn on the air conditioning until the heat became unbearable. As I have mentioned several times, Tiara can’t get too hot or she will physically overheat, so I can only push my cheapness so far. During the Fall of 2004, we had a horrible heat wave, which is super common in Southern California, but it doesn’t make it any better. I am not a fan of the heat, nor are my children. Of course, Lou likes the heat because we are opposite in every way.
It was a weekend and my sister came over with her new baby and her son. Our husbands were at work and we were all sitting in the kids room on the floor doing nothing but talking and watching the little kids plays and the baby sleep. I finally decided we had suffered enough, and I turned on the air conditioning.
After I returned to the little girls room and sat back down on the floor, I suddenly realized that Tiara was not in the room with all the other kids. At this point in her life, she had never escaped before so I didn’t instantly panic, like I would today. I got up and started walking around the house looking for her. She was 6 years old at the time, had some speech, but not much and was wearing only a diaper. As I checked each room and failed to find her, panic set in. I started screaming for her everywhere and my sister tried to help look but someone had to keep an eye on the little ones while I frantically looked everywhere in the house. We assumed she was playing hide and go seek, but we couldn’t find her anywhere. All the doors were closed but she wasn’t in the house.
I then realized, the front door was closed but not all the way and it wasn’t locked. I ran out the front door and knew instantly where to look. The next door neighbors had just moved in a few weeks ago. We had gone over to introduce ourselves when they moved in and their son showed Tiara his guitar. Tiara loved and still loves music and has always been mesmerized by guitar playing. He had played her a quick song and since that moment she was always trying to pull me over to their house whenever I was putting her in the car. As I ran down the driveway and looked to the left I didn’t see her but as I got to their walkway I saw her standing naked at their door, knocking. As I went to grab her, the wife opened the door to my naked 6 year old. I am laughing my head off remembering that moment. The poor woman looked a little shell shocked as they had only met us once and didn’t know Tiara’s history nor the fact that she was autistic and apparently an escape artist. I quickly scooped her up into my arms and profusely apologized while trying to explain why my child was naked at her door. To make matters worse, I started totally sobbing as reality set in that I had just lost my nonverbal child who wasn’t wearing an identification bracelet and couldn’t even tell someone here name or where she lived.
I carried her home and brought her inside where I saw her diaper lying on the floor. I guess she was so hot, she figured she would be cooler without the diaper on and maybe a visit to the neighbors would be fun? From then on I started dead bolting the door at all times. Unfortunately that was not enough security for Tiara, as she escaped the second time only days later. I caught her before she got passed the picket fence, but Lou and I realized we needed to doing something more to protect her from leaving whenever she felt like it. That is when we installed a “hotel lock” on our front door. It worked great and prevented her from leaving as long as everyone remembered to always put it on.
Years later, as her basketball obsession grew, she learned to escape out the side gates of the house. She would remember which neighbors had hoops and was always on a mission to visit the other basketball hoops in the neighborhood. It got so bad, she would actually try and open the car door as we drove by a basketball hoop, and jump out to play and stare at the other hoops. We rigged the side gates so she could no longer escape but nothing is full proof.
We tried to get her to wear an id bracelet, in case she was smarter than us and found another way to escape, but she refused to keep anything on. She would pull and tug at it until she skin was red and raw. I finally gave up and decided I just couldn’t ever let her out of my sight. To be honest she has escaped a few more times since that second time, but by the grace of God we have always found her before something bad happened. Someday I will tell you about our infamous cruise to Alaska and how she decided to talk a midnight walk by herself while I was asleep and Lou was next door playing cards!