by Julia Buckley
Last Tuesday someone broke into my sister's house. They were alerted to the fact that the place was empty, my sister thinks, by the UPS package which was left on her front porch without a signature (something UPS had said they would not do). That lonely package may well have made the thieves scanning her street think that her house was a likely target. They broke her basement window and climbed up her basement stairs. The door was locked, so it took them a while to break that down. Once they got through that, they were in her kitchen. They spent no time there. They went straight to the only bedroom on the main floor--my nephew's bedroom. He is thirteen, and they liked what they found in his room. They took his backpack and used it as a vessel to carry the things they wanted.
His IPOD, his camera, his money--all of those went into the backpack, and then the thieves moved up the stairs to the other bedrooms. They went into the room where my nieces sleep. My nieces, fourteen and ten: not much in their room that the thieves wanted, but there was plenty in the bedroom of my sister and her husband. Money, of course--just change kept in a little jar. My sister's jewelry--all of it. Years and years of gifts from her husband, her children, and her kindergarten students: necklaces and bracelets, rings and pins, all of them given with love--were dumped into the backpack. Because my sister recently lost a significant amount of weight through sheer self-discipline (and Weight Watchers), her engagement ring, now too big for her, sat on her dresser. They took that, too.
While the thieves roamed their house, a neighbor thought things didn't look quite right. They called the police. It took the police a while to get there, but when they did, they noticed a suspicious pair of men walking down the street. One of them had a green backpack. The police went after them, but the one with the backpack got away. They couldn't hold the other one, who claimed to know nothing. Later they also stopped what they believed to be a driver and a lookout--but they had no evidence on them, either.
The police returned to my sister's house and went inside. Secured on their refrigerator, with magnets, are "Mom and Dad's numbers at work." My brother-in-law happens to be a police officer; they called him.
This is the second time my sister's house has been burglarized. It may not be the last. They are in the city and their home is right by an El station. I asked my brother-in-law, when he told me this story at our Thanksgiving gathering, if he wasn't angry. If he didn't feel violated that these people took his things, that they were in his children's rooms. He shrugged. "Naw. Not this time," he said. "We just told the kids that people who do things like this must need it more than we do, and we should pray for them, and be grateful that we have a house someone else thinks is worth robbing."
I stared at him in disbelief. In this respect I am very different from my sister and her family. They are gentle and forgiving; I believe I would be angry and frustrated. I would spend long hours hating what had been done and resenting the anonymous thieves. I would feel insecure and check all of my locks and chafe at the frailty of glass windows. And yet I know that people who are determined to steal will steal, and that's a frightening thought.
My sister's worst moment came when she realized that her daughters, who arrive home before she does, might have walked in on this, on them, if no one had called the police. That makes her worry about the future; she is thinking of asking her boss to change her hours so that she can be home to welcome her children. She doesn't know if he will.
Meanwhile her husband has been visiting some pawnshops, telling them that he'd like to know if any of them get his wife's engagement ring.
This whole thing upset me and made me angry on my sister's behalf; but their calmness in the face of loss has also inspired me. Ultimately if they can accept it, I can. But I might want to help them buy some bars for their windows . . . .