Wednesday, February 23, 2011

True Crime Story...

(NOT mine and my brother's room. My little sister's room circa 1978)

Earlier this week I linked to a post over at ‘Trina Likes Wine’ which had inspired me to jot down a fond childhood memory that had me laughing out loud in its retelling. Trina it turns out came from a large family too and I’m pretty sure her childhood stories will fill her blog pages for years just as mine has.

Well, Trina has done it again. Her latest post about rooming with her sister bubbled up another one for me. Yes, my brother and I fought occasionally like Trina and her sister, but the funny story has nothing to do with fighting.

In 1976, we were living in Newport News, Virginia while my father was stationed at Fort Monroe. As a family of seven living off post these were lean times, but none of us kids were aware of it (I mean who didn’t eat Hamburger Helper every night back then, right?) and it was an idyllic life we lead for the most part. One of the family sacrifices made to austerity was that we didn’t go on ‘vacations’. Meaning, we NEVER went to the beach for a week, or went to Disney World, the Grand Canyon, etc… What we did do when dad took time off of work was drive to my grandparents house in Raleigh North Carolina in an unairconditioned station wagon for week to 10 day visits. The quintillion hours it took to get there sucked pretty bad. My grandparents neighborhood was full of old people and was stiflingly boring, but us kids made the best of it. We did love seeing our grandparents, but given our sheer numbers and the giant dog that we dragged along I wondered if the feeling was mutual. Whatev’s…

It was during one of these trips that my parents were informed by the neighbor kid who was feeding the cat while we were away, that somebody had burgled and ransacked our house the previous night and one of them needed to return right away. I remember my mother being very upset on the phone about the whole idea of criminals being in our house, you know, the whole violation of space thing. I didn’t get it then, but I do now of course. Little did she know that my brother and I were going to add to her anxiety in the coming twenty four hours.

My grandfather picked up the tab for the immediate airplane flight my mother took back to Newport News to meet the police detectives who were waiting for her to determine what items had been taken and sort the whole thing out. When she arrived police cars, detectives, and plain clothes cops were everywhere taking fingerprints and interviewing the now throngs of neighbors who had collected at the end of the driveway out of curiosity. The lead detective on the scene greeted my mother at the garage and gave her the run down: more than one perp broke out a window on the backdoor, probably teenagers looking for beer/pot money, etc… He then proceeded to walk my distraught mother through the house to help his team of detectives determine what was missing. They stopped, acknowledged, and walked past the desk in the living room which had been dumped over and papers strewn all over the place. The strong box which was stored under the desk had been open and a bunch of coins were missing. Mom said that there was a detective dusting for prints, and my mother commented that what they got couldn’t have been much, at least from the desk and strong box. The detective said that the burglars did most of their damage to mine and my brother’s bedroom. “Oh really, why would they do that?”, my mom exclaimed. He went on to deduce that the damage and mess they made ransacking our room indicated that they seemed certain something of value must have been in there.

My mother’s face went ashen as they made the turn at the top of the stairs and entered our room, not by the thought of criminal psychopaths having invaded our family space and violating our bucolic suburban security, but for a different reason entirely.

See, my brother and I weren’t, shall we say, particular about how we kept our room. As a matter of fact, if I’m being honest here on a regular basis our room looked like one of those people you see on the A&E Channel’s “Hoarders” show. My mother had to tell the detective that they need not waste anymore time combing this part of the “crime scene” or dusting for prints, that nothing of value was being scoured for in our room by determined criminal perpetrators, unless my Kiss ‘Destroyer’ album constituted something of value (actually, Kiss ‘Destroyer’ has tremendous value because it to this day kicks so much major ass, but it could have easily been had for $5.99 at any record store at the time).

The neighborhood teenagers who were eventually caught made off with a bunch of silver dollar coins which they exchanged for quarters to play pinball at the local 7-11 and perhaps a few pieces of my mom’s jewelry if I remember correctly, but since my brother and I had cleverly and fortuitously employed what we now referred to as the ’Chaos Concealment Method’ to secure all of our valuables we suffered no losses during the burglary. I guess we should have told our mom to use that one.