Life is weird, sometimes.
In case you’re too lazy to click on that link, I’ll tell that his post talked about the difficulties of getting his son to sleep in a “big boy” bed, about how he had to quell this little boy’s fears, try to get him to sleep soundly.
It made me think of my son at that age, and I admit I was a little (lot) glad those times are behind me.
I never dreamed I’d be right back there, just 12 hours later.
Trying to coax The Boy into sleep.
Trying to reassure my son. That the bad man wasn’t coming back.
And when that logic failed, that maybe the bad man wasn’t so bad, after all.
Yesterday was hot. Damn hot. I wasn’t feeling very well. So when The Boy announced that he didn’t want to stay after school to play on the playground? I was beyond relieved.
We drove home, pulled into our driveway.
My parking spot was occupied. A green and purple bike was parked, sideways. My first thought was that maybe my husband’s friend and sometimes casual employee, who is a competitive cyclist, was in our yard. It’s not uncommon for him to drop by, pick up some of the plumbing items my husband keeps stored in a corner of the backyard. But I couldn’t see him. And something just felt….off.
I tried to keep the mood light, told the kids to just stay in the car. Parked behind the bike. I got out, slowly walked toward the gate.
A man started to walk towards me.
A man I didn’t know.
“Um, can I help you?” A pseudo-polite question, trying in vain to mask the terror that was bubbling in my stomach.
“Nope.” He starts to walk briskly past me, trying to get to his bike.
I look at the messenger bag he’s desperately clutching. From beneath the flap, I can see the gleam of copper fittings.
He looks at me, looks at me looking at the bag. He knows he’s caught. I’m standing between him and his bike.
I should have gotten back in the car. Locked the doors.
But instead, the terror took a sideways shift into rage.
Rage that said, “You’ve gotta be motherfucking kidding me! My husband works his ass off to make ends barely meet around here, and you, you stupid, too-lazy to get a job fucking piece of shit are going to steal from us? No. Fucking. Way.”
I stand in front of him. “Give me my shit back. NOW.”
He breaks eye contact, looks around. I don’t know why, it couldn’t have been me being intimidating, maybe I looked just unhinged enough, I don’t know. But he steps back.
Dumps the copper onto the driveway.
I can see there’s still stuff in his bag. And I’m thinking it could be hand tools, pliers, hammers, whatever crap Owen’s left laying around. “Empty the fucking bag!”
“That’s my stuff, I’m leaving, there’s no trouble, I’m leaving.”
He darts around me, jumps on his bike.
The Boy has ignored my instructions. He’s scared, and he’s going to protect his mom. He’s jumped out of the van, and once the guy is gone, and he thinks we’re probably safe, The Boy bursts into tears, and starts yelling, “Mom! This is weird! I don’t know what to do!” The Girl has stayed in the van, no tears, but is sporting two impossibly wide eyes.
I dial 911. I’m giving them details, trying desperately to calm the kids down. The neighbor comes over (she heard shouting, and assumed I was yelling at Owen. And something about that makes me laugh till my stomach is sore, thank god, and she takes my kids into her house while I wait for the police).
A police officer who I swear is no older than 12 (yes I know that’s impossible, but god damn, he’s young) is at the house in under 5 minutes. So are two other cruisers, which begin circling the surrounding neighborhood.
I take Officer Doogie through the yard, explain what’s happened. He looks down at the pile of copper fittings.
“So…this guy was trying to steal…garbage?”
I explain to Skippy that copper salvage is actually worth a fair bit of money. (I refrain from saying that if he ever watched the news, he’d know that, but of course, the news is probably on past his bedtime.)
He tells me what I already know, that they most likely won’t catch the guy.
And really, what has the guy done?
He didn’t even get away with anything, as far as we can tell. He never broke, or really entered, he just came into our yard.
But I’m wrong. He did get away with something.
He took my ability to say, “Well, nearly all of our neighbors have had issues with break ins, but not us.” I’d always wrapped myself in the idea that since we have so few possessions, no one would possibly think to rob us. I never considered that what was nothing to me, was something to someone far more desperate.
And he took some of my son’s security away.
I spent hours yesterday, first huddled with my kids on the couch. Later, cuddling with them in their beds. The Girl was easily reassured, fell asleep quickly.
The Boy initially bought the explanation that this petty, petty criminal wouldn’t be back. But as it got darker, he didn’t stay convinced. So my husband and I had to switch gears, explaining that if he’d been a truly bad guy, the would-be thief wouldn’t have left so easily, and certainly not empty handed.
“He’s not so much a bad guy, as a lazy guy,” was my husband’s final word on the subject.
The Boy seemed satisfied. But he still climbed into our bed in the middle of the night, something he hasn’t done in over 3 years.
We’re OK. Really, we are.
Shaken, not stirred.