Things That Go THUMP in the Night


A few nights ago, Lori and I were logging some late-night hours in our state-of-the-art home office – the basement of our 100-year-old Victorian. We were catching up on client emails, redoing budgets, and putting together project plans for upcoming work. As much as I adore our home, it can be…quirky. I mean, yes, it’s haunted – that’s another story – but more than that, the laws of physics simply don’t seem to apply.

Come to think of it, the two things may be related.

Apart from the flickering lights, burned out batteries, unidentifiable smells, and random cold spots, the thing that really makes this house odd is how it treats sound. It’s just…weird. We can all be in the kitchen at the back of the house and very clearly hear footsteps going up the front stairway. I can be in the mudroom and hear Lori yelling from our bedroom to turn off the stove, but not hear Gabe in the powder room yelling for someone to help him wipe his butt. Or we can be in the frontyard and hear Olivia’s books landing with dull thuds on the floor in her protest of nap time.

Even our neighbors across the alley have become extended members of our funky aural family. On more than one occasion, we have found a morning-dew-covered bottle of wine waiting for us as we hustle the kids to school after a particularly challenging evening where Olivia’s non-stop screaming at her brothers to give her the damn hula hoop has apparently traveled from our backyard into their front sitting room.

Sounds like this might help after last night.
It’s happy hour somewhere.
– P and T

Perhaps it is the house’s coping mechanism, after raising the previous owners’ eight rambunctious boys – this disperssal of sound to keep itself sane. Whatever the origins, it has become so integrated into our everyday “normal” that we don’t register it anymore.

That’s probably why, after the first THUMP we heard that night, we just lifted our heads from our computer screens, shrugged, then went back to typing. After all, it wasn’t unusal for Nick to literally hit the wall to try to fall asleep after he figuratively hit it.

“Do you think we should check on them,” Lori asked. Translation: I’m in the middle of putting together this budget, so could you go upstairs and make sure they haven’t tied the drawstrings of their robes to the ceiling fan…again.

“Actually,” I rationalized, not wanting to stop work on a creative brief I promised the client, “I’m sure they’re fine.”

The second THUMP was accompanied by the patter of little feet scurrying down the hall, followed promptly by a third THUMP and more giggling.

We simultaneously sighed, stopped typing and headed upstairs.

“Nick? Gabe?”

Silence met us as we ascended the stairs.


We rounded the bannister, and heard giggling coming from behind the guest bedroom door. Stepping across the threshold, we saw what all of the commotion was about. The boys had built a reading nest – complete with every blanket from their beds and every book from their shelves – literally, we had to step over Go Dog Go and The Boxcar Children to find stable footing.


Where should I start? My first instinct was to scold.

It’s 9:30! Why are you up?! Why does it look like a library truck threw up in here?! Why can’t you just read in bed? What part of ‘goodnight, stay in bed, see you in the morning’ did you not understand?

But then…they just looked so adorable, nestled in their little reading fort, pillows on the perimeter, books stacked haphazardly, many open at once as if they were remixing lines from each author to make an entirely new piece (for all I know, they were). Then I remembered that we had made the mistake of giving them Lori’s homemade high protein flax bagels right before bed. Olivia had declined, which was why she was still slumbering in the adjacent room.

Then there was the fact that as a kid, I had ruined my eyesight reading by flashlight long after my parents had gone to bed. Well Hello, Karma. How you doin’?

“Why don’t you guys get one book to take back to your room, ok?”

Nick chose a book on evolution while Gabe opted for Winnie the Pooh.

“Can we stay up a little it to read?”

Lori and I smiled at one another, completely on the same wavelength. “Of course you can,” Lori nodded. “And we’ll even stay upstairs and rub your backs.”

That seemed to ease the tension in our elder boy. Grabbing hold of his brother’s hand, he walked back to his room, helping Gabe into his bed before climbing into his own.

Within five minutes both boys were fast asleep. Lori and I tiptoed out of the bedroom and returned to our basement enclave.

Whether it’s a home bursting with books, or a snack packed with protein, we get back what we put in. A lifetime love of reading, an evening burst of energy – kids use whatever we give them. So can we really be upset when Nick walks into a door because he hasn’t looked up from his latest Captain Underpants book? Or Gabe demands not one or two but seven bedtime stories, including poetry? Or Olivia sends our blood pressure up when she tries to bring a stack of ten books down the stairs with her? Or they demand something from Lori’s kitchen because it’s just so freakin’ good?

As we strive to nourish their bodies and feed their spirits, we must remember that the rewards we are so eager to reap will appear on their terms and their time.

And like the sounds that bounce through our home, will be random, yet… inevitable.

We must simply wait –

And listen.

4 thoughts on “Things That Go THUMP in the Night

  1. Once again, a great story….but you never told me that house was haunted.
    I’ll want details at my next visit please or I’ll just help build a book fort

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