29 June 2010

A Letter To a Thief

Dear thief,

A quick note from the people you stole from, it seems the least that we can do. Since we don’t actually have a relationship, this letter might at first seem awkward to receive, even more strange to read. But really, not any more awkward than it was for us to have you take my wife’s purse and my baby son’s diaper bag. So, a relationship based in awkwardness, that’s what we’re left with. I see we just wing it, don’t you agree?

Just a little bit about us; we are college professors, and our son is 17 months old. I would tell you more, but you probably have learned a good deal from photographs, receipts, and the like, all of which are in the purse. We are, as you might’ve been excited to find out, from the United States, specifically from a state called Michigan. We were visiting your country to be with our in-laws who live in Ottawa Ontario, about five hours east of where you took our things.

We are certainly curious about who you are. Although we will probably never meet, I have been assuming your characteristics for the last 24 hours. And, if I’m being honest, which I suppose there are good reasons not to be, most of these are not flattering. For example, I have been assuming that you are an idiot. That you are overrated in your social circles, are known for flatulence not intelligence, that you drink beer from paper cups, and that your feet smell. That, upon finding my wife’s iPhone, you giggled and hee-hawed back to the pop-up tent you are renting from your uncle, in whose backyard you use it for a home. Then, after you had somebody help you figure out what it was, called your one friend who has a phone to tell him all about it.

And I guess this is one of the reasons I dislike you so much; you make me think bad things about human beings. And for that, you are a son of a bitch.

But I feel I owe you a couple of explanations. Mostly, I think you should know what you have taken from us.

First, I bought that purse for my wife three years ago for Christmas. I don’t think she ever liked it all that much, but it became something we talked about, laughed about together. In other words, it became part of our story, part of our narrative. It would come up at almost every other occasion in which we would give each other gifts as the “what not to buy” gift. So when I gave her string of pearls for our anniversary, we talked about that purse. When she gave me TiVo for the next Christmas, the purse came up.

When we sat nervously in the waiting room at our first appointment at the adoption agency, she had the purse and we commented on it. That laughter helped ease what we were feeling.

In the purse of course you found a wallet with credit cards, $40 in cash, Social Security card, drivers license. All the predictable things that you were hoping for. Oh congratulations, by the way. $40 should buy a good deal of baked beans for you and your dog.

But you probably also found a picture of my boy Moses. I hope you meet him someday, and he and you become friends. Then maybe you room together somewhere, maybe in graduate school (though not likely if my sketches of you are correct), and that you share a lot in common. That you hang out, talk about important things, important ideas. And you might even stand up in each other’s wedding. My son will have been plotting this the whole time. He was always trying to get you comfortable with him, waiting for the moment. Were you comfortable? Did you completely trust him, even up to the moment when he kicked your butt, and told you what a doofus you were for taking his diaper bag and his mother’s purse. Even when he turned you in to the Canadian authorities, who were at the time were not considering any statute of limitation laws, assigned you to a work camp in Nova Scotia, or somewhere else very cold–did you trust Moses even then?

His diaper bag had a bunch of stuff in it that didn’t matter, bottles, Tylenol for children, some wet wipes. But it also had a shirt in it that I bought him in Arizona, along with a pair of shorts that my mother, his grandmother, bought him on that trip as well. Just clothing to you, but to me and my family, pieces of the story. The bag itself, that’s another part of the story. My wife and I had been waiting seven months to get the phone call we finally did that Thursday, a boy had been born who needed some parents. That night, frantically, we zipped through the lines at babies R. us looking for things we thought we needed. The one thing we knew we needed was a diaper bag. That bag would eventually hold the first stuffed animal I bought Moses, about 10 minutes before I met him. I have a picture of that little black dog sticking out of the backpack.

But because of you, I don’t have the backpack. I don’t have the photographs, the purse, etc.. You have them. But you have so much more, as I hope the person reading you this letter has explained. It’s like you ripped out pages from a book that we all have been writing and used them as toilet paper.

In closing, here is what I hope. I hope that you needed this stuff more than we did. In the end, it’s just stuff. Luckily, our sentimentality and memories remained untouched by your sticky fingers. Our story remains.

Hoping you are well. Keep up with the phonics lessons. They will help.

Chris, Lisa, and Moses

01 June 2010


The flow is so good, the wind is perfect.
Dodging shadows to stay warm, scavenging the sun will do me good at 9 AM this morning as I make my way to my office. My arms feel good, Moses feels the sun. So do the tree and the Raven. All three sink in to my skin, their black ink warm.

Eardrums buzzing. My friends Willie and Lucinda.

"This guy, he's driving right here on the road, right by my car, right now. In his wheelchair. He must be nuts. Probably from that big rest home on 32nd right by Eddy's House? Crazy. Anyway, my plan is to be there..."

The flow is so good, the wind is so perfect.
9:15 AM after an amazing weekend with 18 pounds of joy, my life partner, my family, and the warmth of friends singing, laughing, kind of watching a baseball game while catching up. It was very hot. I sang "if you're happy and you know it, clap your hands -- if you're chubby and you're sweating, it's your fault." Same melody.

A person on a bike just rode past me, she's counting all the different ways to tell him that it's over. Or maybe she is wondering about God. Or maybe she, like me, does the latter unconsciously. As a sort of pedal tone of my day.

9:20 AM, the sidewalk.

To the person who invented the modern technology of making sidewalks with creases, you are a son of a bitch.

Bump. My foot moves .5 inches towards a place I don't want to to be.
Bump. My hat jiggles. Will it fall off this time?
Bump. My hip jostles, and not in a good way, not in the Marilyn Monroe way. But instead, in an infuriating, "crap, I'm screwed," manner that I have understood most of my life. Sidewalks, curbs, gravel, bumps in my own lawn. They can shift my world.
Bump. Double moves for my elbow and arm.
Bump. I guess a good one this time, helps me move my arm backward where it wants to be.
Bump. The foot falls all the way.

Bump. Bump. Bump. Damn bump.

9:40 AM, the sidewalk ends.

"I don't know,... crap. How does that guy think he is going to cross this street? Unbelievable. Don't they take buses these people?"

And then it's over, the frustration of the sidewalk way behind the walk I am taking now, the sun is back. I have work to do. An amendment to the creator of sidewalks: you are still a son of a bitch, but I thank you for the bumps. They move me.