Little Earthquakes (Niki has a stress dream and learns about earthquake kits)

Chapter 5

I pulled into the driveway of our rented house. Simon’s left, so I park in the garage, closing the door. I removed the groceries from the backseat and set them on the washing machine before sliding off my scrubs, dumping them into the laundry hamper. I’m always worried about bringing home germs from the hospital, and spreading them to Maddie. I put on the robe I keep on a hook before entering the kitchen with the groceries.

Simon’s left the dirty dishes from last night’s dinner in the sink, and the wastebasket is brimming on the edge of overflow. Its contents defy gravity. Although exasperated, I admire Simon’s flair for sculptural design.

He’s left a sticky note in his methodical printing on the counter:

“I’ll take care of the dishes and trash when I get back.”

I put the groceries away, and then wash the dishes, but leave the trash. I’ll sleep better the less Simon clanks around in the kitchen. I’ll clean the rest of the house tonight when I wake up. Last night was my third twelve-hour shift in a row. I’m off tonight.

I take a quick shower, towel off dry and practically fall into the unmade bed in our darkened bedroom. In minutes, I am unconscious.

I dream I’m still at work. The monitor and pulse ox alarms are going off in a patient’s room. I go in and look at the baby lying in the warmer. He’s naked and uncovered. His skin is blue. I am terrified that I forgot he was my patient, and ignored him all shift. I can’t revive the baby, and the alarms keep ringing…

My heart is pounding from the dream when I wake up at two-thirty. It takes a minute to realize I’m not at work. In the still darkened room I feel around the foot of the bed, groping for the soft grey sweats and tee shirt I left there yesterday. I put them on, sliding my feet into rubber flip-flops before traipsing into the kitchen. The trash is still there from this morning. The sink is again full with the dirty utensils Simon used to make macaroni and cheese.

I maneuver the teakettle around the dirty dishes, filling it with water before setting it on a burner, and adjusting the blue flame to high. I drop a teabag, fragrant with cardamom, into my favorite mug and wait for the kettle to boil.

In the family room, I hit the random play button on the CD player before settling into the old rocker recliner. Rocking gently, sipping tea, my brain slowly rises from its fuzziness, much like the Southern California coast has emerged from the morning fog, which I notice burned off while I was asleep.

Twenty minutes later, Simon’s car pulls into the driveway. Two car doors slam shut, and I hear Maddie laughing as she runs into the house.

“Mom! We practiced earthquake safety at school today. We crouched under the desks and covered our heads with our hands. I have a note from Mrs. Marrs. Everybody has to bring an earthquake kit to school.”

“What’s an earthquake kit?”

I set down the mug as Maddie holds out a piece of folded paper. Sure enough, it’s from her teacher, explaining that every student needs an earthquake kit at school, in case of emergency. Each kit must be packaged in 2-quart Ziploc bags, double-bagged. The bags can’t be larger than 2 quarts because of space limitations in the classroom. The required contents of the kit are listed in bullets:

  • A lightweight hoodie sweatshirt
  • A packaged (not homemade) granola bar or snack
  • A juice box
  • A list of allergies, if any
  • Your child’s name, and the address of both parents, including home, work, and cell phone numbers on an index card
  • The name and cell phone number of a local, alternative emergency contact

I cringe; thinking, “Would I be able to get to Maddie if an earthquake happens while I’m at work?” then quickly dismiss the thought. I set the paper next to my mug on the table, reaching for Maddie to give her a hug.

Maddie cuddles into my chest. I touch her cheek with mine before kissing the top of her head. She says, “I can always tell when you worked Mom, because you wear the same old crusty clothes, drink tea, and rock.”

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  1. The Adventures of Nurse Niki Chapter 5: Dirty Dishes, Stress Dreams & Earthquake Preparedness | JParadisi RN's Blog - July 27, 2013

    […] The Adventures of Nurse Niki Chapter 5 is posted. This week Niki navigates dirty dishes, a  stress dream, and earthquake preparedness. Sound familiar? You probably work night shift! […]


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