Claire Hess recalls the day when she was a young mother with a new baby and she felt her heart stopped. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns
By Claire Hess
An apartment in Norwalk, California, down the street from the old sheriff’s station on Pioneer Boulevard.
Child: two weeks old, laying in her crib
Me: laying in bed
Burglar: not sure how old and with unidentifiable characteristics
On a cool, crisp December morning 48 years ago, my heart stopped temporarily. The following is what happened that day.
My husband left our apartment in a hurry about 7 a.m. forgetting to lock the front and only door to the small furnished apartment we shared with our newly born child. He was on his way to downtown Los Angeles where he worked for the Medical Records Division of a county hospital.
We said our early goodbyes and knowing that my baby was sleeping, I immediately turned over in bed to rest awhile before her first morning feeding.
About five long minutes went by before I heard the front door open. Heavy footsteps, one at a time, were slowly coming toward the bedroom. I thought, “It must be my husband, forgetting his key or forgetting something important in our bedroom/office/everything you could imagine in that room.”
By the final footstep I was expecting to see his handsome face. It was a stranger’s face stopping in the hall staring at me.
I likewise stared at him, only all the adrenaline went out of my body and I could not move a muscle. I was terrified. I learned why many people can’t fight back when accosted by a stranger.
I am so thankful I did not scream as he might have charged at me to shut me up. My daughter was sleeping so peacefully through all this and I was glad.
He realized someone was in the apartment and exited out the front door. Did he take anything? e took all the change in my wallet; I somehow had left it on the bar the night before.
I called the police and they searched all around, of course. After the police left, I still searched the closet thinking he was still there.
Gee, we were lucky that day no harm was done. I called my parents and husband and relayed the events. He wasn’t too worried about me. My mom and dad suggested we move as soon as possible.
Later, we could only surmise that my husband forgot to lock the door when he left that morning. End of story.
I am still breathing but will always remember how my heart semi-stopped that cool December morning.