But on one of those birthdays, everything profoundly changed for us this year.
It was the day my sister and my four-year-old nephew went to the Thursday night Farmers Market, the day my brother-in-law was out of town and not expected back until late, the day my sister returned to a dark house, alone except for the little hand she was holding, when our innocence about our fellow man changed forever. At some time between when she left for work that morning and quite possibly while she and her child were marveling at the holiday atmosphere in downtown San Luis Obispo, black-hearted thieves entered their modest home in the Laguna Lake neighborhood, and stole treasures money could never replace.
No one was surprised a laptop, the family credit cards, a watch my brother-in-law’s father gave him, and a Wii system and games were stolen. Even the theft of a hard drive containing 25 years of my brother-in-law’s original musical compositions was not the worst loss. No, the loss of the only recordings of his songs—melody and verse—written for his wife and only child, was not the worst injury. The theft that hurt the most was that of my nephew’s plastic piggy bank with his secret trove of coins.
How could anyone break into a home and steal a child’s piggy bank? What in the world could the paltry change buy that would be worth damaging a child? How can the fear be quelled in a boy who thought of everyone as a friend? What are the answers to his questions, “Are they coming back?” “Will they take Mommy next time?” and “Daddy, why would people do this to us?” Why indeed: During a month in celebration of peace, joy, and love, why would thugs not only steal Christmas from a child, but defile the sanctuary of the only home he’s known?
There are no words to express the violation, the feeling of helplessness and loss. True, it was not a fire. My sister and her husband still have the house they rent and their beloved kitties, and were not physically harmed. Though they have struggled over the last year in particular, they are not starving nor face losing their home—yet.
I want the criminals to know they hit a family whose father has been out of work for almost two years, who now has no unemployment compensation and no health insurance. This family cannot afford to fix the transmission in their car. They cannot afford to replace the stolen items, and the computer is critical for the father to print resumes and email prospective employers from home while providing daycare for his son while his wife works. This is a family who donates time to charities, a family who donates toys their child no longer plays with, a family who is kind to the planet and its fellow inhabitants. My sister and her husband have together weathered their hardships with open hearts and laughter. As our family sits in front of the Christmas tree, as we share in each other’s “presence” and not “presents”, I want those thieves to be reminded of the child who even at four is so full of love he said, “They are mean people, but I forgive them.” You can’t buy that grace with all the coins in all the piggy banks. ∆
Kimberlee Turner is a 45-year native of San Luis Obispo, who remembers Tiki Tom’s, Corcoran’s Restaurant, the Dark Room, and the Outside Inn by the railroad station. She’s one of Jerry James’s biggest fans. Send comments to her via the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.