One kick to the door was all it took. My first thought when I saw the splintered door frame was: thank God my son wasn’t home; he would have slept through the noise. The CSI detective showed me how they entered by shining her light down the surface of the front door: the clear print of a boot. Waffle stompers we called them in college. “That’s exactly where you kick,” she said.
The thieves who came in the night took their time, dumping drawers, opening cabinets and sorting through my jewel boxes. Things were strewn throughout the house. A Mexican five peso bill from my husband’s bathroom drawer was next to the dining room curtain. A stained pillow was lying next to it.
I thought (with some satisfaction) that it couldn’t have been a very gratifying haul for them. I keep the little good jewelry I have in a safety deposit box. The burglars went to the trouble of removing two wall-hung TVs. The TVs were eight years old and worthless. They took a huge silver plate serving tray that I’ve never used; new “princess” trays sell online for about $75.00. No prints, the detective said, they even used a new kind of glove that left no smudges. They were pros.
I thought (with some relief) that they didn’t break anything. The old Chinese tea caddy that I use for a jewel box was on the floor, drawers emptied but undamaged. They could have vandalized things just for the hell of it, dumped condiments from the refrigerator, graffitied the walls.
I thought (with effort) that it was just stuff. While rushing home, my friend called with the news that her husband had just passed away. I had been with her most of the week while he lay “actively dying.” For eight days, he had been unable to take in liquids. For seven days, he had been in a hospital bed, lying in that state that hospice calls “transition.” I remember “transition” from giving birth; with this version there’s no happy ending.
After CSI left, I went to see my friend, then came home and fell asleep. I awakened some time later. I thought I heard a thump through my husband’s open window. Had someone hopped the fence? I listened, willed myself awake. No sound, not even crickets. Had the crickets been startled into silence?
I drifted. The image of my grandmother’s pendant watch floated before me. My mother’s mother – I called her Nana — died when I was five. I entered her bedroom after my afternoon nap, expecting to find her resting, too. I couldn’t awaken her. My mother hurried me out of her room while she called our neighbor the doctor. Nana had always been a gentle presence. I remember her softly curled gray hair. Her soft lap. Everything about her was soft. The edges of her frameless glasses caught the light and sparkled around her eyes. I have two things that were hers. Correction: had. I unconsciously looked toward my dresser for one when I approached my bedroom after the break in: my grandmother’s jar of potpourri. It was untouched — a white porcelain jar painted with a delicate pink chrysanthemum, a red-and-white morning glory and a tuxedoed magpie. I lifted the lid and inhaled. The scent of summer roses wafted across sixty years. I didn’t think about her watch then, the round ball with tiny face. It was enameled with tiny pink flowers against a turquoise background. Throughout my childhood, when I stood by my mother as she chose accessories for an evening out, I took it out of her jewel box and let the links trickle into my hand before I dropped the cool globe into my palm. When my daughter was young, she would hold it and ask me to tell her about my Nana. The watch would have gone to her.
My nights are still like this: I fall asleep reading and rouse with the memory of something I will miss. A sterling spoon engraved “Ella’s baby.” That was my Nana. The gold butterfly necklace my father gave me. My mother’s silver earrings with the dangling bells that tinkled when she moved her head. The things that connected me to those who came before.