Having grown up in a twelve street town, I wasn’t prepared for life in the city, complete with burglars.
When my husband and I moved into our first single-family dwelling we stupidly considered ourselves at no risk. The house was older than our combined ages. We owned a rusty Chevette and wore clothes from the bargain bin. Surely no one would consider robbing our home worth the risk of incarceration. There hasn’t been such naïveté since Wendy trusted Tinkerbell.
My husband, infant daughter and I lived in a 2 1/2 story home. The bedroom ceilings were sloped. We adopted a permanent stoop after repeatedly dashing our skulls in Wile E. Coyote style. In summer, the upper half of the home retained heat like a kiln. We ran fans in our room and the baby’s, as well as the furnace vent. Every night we propped up the windows with the removable screen and then shouted good night over the whirling machinery.
One sultry evening my husband and I stared at a mountain of dishes and engaged in dueling excuses.
“The baby has been so colicky today, I’m just exhausted,” I said.
“It was so hot today, I shouldn’t have done all that yard work,” responded my husband.
“She didn’t sleep for more than 15 minutes at a time. I couldn’t get anything done,” I said.
“Those cinder blocks must’ve weighed a ton,” he said.
“I’ve got such a headache,” I said.
“I’ve got such a backache,” he said.
“It sure is hot,” I said.
“Really hot,” he agreed.
We left the dirtiest dishes to soak and stacked the rest on the counter. Suddenly, my husband noticed two teenagers in our backyard. He hammered on the window and thumbed toward exit. The boys scrambled over the fence and disappeared.
“What do you suppose they’re up to?” I asked.
“Probably raiding the garden,” said my husband.
Now I suspect they had bigger thefts on their minds than wormy carrots. But we will never know for sure who visited us at 3 AM. My husband had just placed the baby back in her crib after a diaper change, when he heard a faint crash. With all the fan noise he couldn’t tell the direction. He switched on the hall light and went down to the landing. All was quiet.
The next morning I couldn’t find his lunch pail among the mountain of dirty dishes. Then I noticed the screen was gone from the window and his small portable saltshaker was in its place. After investigating, we discovered the lunch pail, thermos, two potted plants, and four dishes on the backyard lawn. A prickle went down my spine.
Someone had piled our cinder blocks against the wall creating makeshift stairs, climbed on top, and then tried to climb through the kitchen window. There they encountered the stacks of dirty dishes. They tried to remove them in order to get onto the onside counter. The crash my husband heard must have been the window accidentally falling shot and trapping the saltshaker. Switching on the light had scared them off.
Our newest home is comfortable, but hardly a burglar’s paradise like the last. I suspect a thief who gained entry would be easily caught. We would be bound to hear him rolling on the floor with laughter over our $50 third-hand stereo with eight track tape deck.
Nevertheless, we’ve installed double dead bolt locks on the doors and bars on the basement windows. There are bright lights on all the exterior walls of the yard are easily viewed by the neighbours. Unfortunately there’s nothing I can buy to protect me from a recurrence of stupidity.
One evening I switched on the outside lights, checked the windows and doors, and went to sleep in my quiet bedroom feeling confident and safe. The next morning, as my husband headed out the door to work, we heard rattling. The burglars had missed their best opportunity. There, in the front doorknob, hung my house keys.
July 7, 1991
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