’Tis Christmas Eve in the morning, and it appears we’ve been burglarized. My father awoke this morning to find our garage with its door wide open and a patent diminishment in the items we keep therein.
When my parents sold their beach house in Orange County two years ago, rather than putting the displaced furnishings into storage, they chose to find every region of unused space in their year-round home, as scarce as it was, and fill it with taped-up boxes and superfluous furniture. Nowadays our living room accommodates two distinct sofa sets with what most humans would undoubtedly deem a tragic incompatibility in their colors and styles. My sister’s old bedroom, whose comparative spaciousness had stirred some juvenile sibling envy, seems cramped now with a dining room table at its center. And what was once a two-car garage has been transformed into a one-car garage whose three stationary walls have been, until today, largely obfuscated by geometrically pristine towers of carefully stacked cardboard prisms as well as by a variety of ad hoc sculptures consisting of not so carefully stacked bedside tables and chairs.
The absence of the four bedside tables and the three columns of brown monoliths from the corner of our garage may have been the first thing my dad noticed this morning that suggested something was amiss. Or perhaps it was the open garage door or the two boxes taken but abandoned on the curb of our driveway that initially caught his eye. Either way, the discarded surgical glove near those boxes, the visibly ransacked interior of his GMC Yukon, which he parks in front of the house, and the garage-door opener missing from his car conclusively confirmed his suspicions and, taken together, outlined a coherent narrative of the burglary.
As usual, I was the last one in the household to wake up today. My parents are playing host to some out-of-town guests who arrived last night and will be leaving this afternoon, so they took the burglary in stride and proceeded with their day’s plan to play a round of golf. It wasn’t until my mom returned from the golf course that I learned what had happened. My initial reaction was one of raw, unadulterated indignation. How dare some person or persons steal from us while we were all in the house sound asleep? How dare he/she/they indeed. I’m congenitally incapable of remaining in a prolonged state of anger, so my hostility eventually gave way to incredulity. I can’t believe this. This is exactly like what happened on that episode of Diff’rent Strokes. You remember the one: Arnold befriends a street-corner Santa who ends up using their friendship to case the Drummonds Park Avenue home, and then the whole family wakes up Christmas morning to find that all the gifts have been stolen from under the tree. The similarities are in certain respects uncanny.
After I finished working through my two stages of grief, I helped my mom file a report with the police, take inventory of what remained in the garage, and reset the garage-door opener in order to render the missing transmitter useless. Somewhere in there I managed to eat lunch and start this blog entry. Today has turned out to be a fairly productive day for a federal holiday—one that, if memory serves, commemorates the arrival of the lesser-known wise men from the east who robbed Joseph and Mary one day prior to their son’s birth.
As it happens, today’s theft from the garage was not the first I’ve had to endure. One night when I was thirteen, the door to the garage was left open accidentally, and some unscrupulous passerby chose to abscond with my bicycle. A few weeks later I saw some punk kid riding a bike that looked exactly like the one that was stolen. I was riding my temporary replacement bike at the time, my sister’s dilapidated old Schwinn, and I decided to ride after the guy and confront him. I followed the kid a block or two, but as we continued to ascend a steep hill, I was no longer able to close the distance between us. Once we hit a plateau a mile later, he catapulted ahead, crossed the street, and disappeared down a cross street. Tired and equipped with a five-speed girls bike grossly unkind to the testes, I was unable to continue my pursuit.
Now there are seminal moments in men’s lives that fundamentally transform them: when Bruce Wayne bore witness to his parents’ murder; when Peter Parker neglected to detain a hoodlum who later killed his uncle; and when Clark Kent first realized he was doomed to suffer a unique kind of alienation due to his preposterously inhuman abilities. Just as those experiences drove those men to dedicate themselves to a lifelong pursuit of vengeance, redemption, and social acceptance, respectively, under the banner of justice, so too did seeing that piece of shit ride away on my bike steer my life toward a noble ideal. Since that formative day, I have conducted my life such that the sum of all my efforts always preserves, if not promotes, the security of my parents’ garage, a goal achieved mostly by making sure I don’t forget to close the garage door. A less interesting corollary is that since that fateful day I’ve practiced unconditional abstention from riding girls bicycles. Today will likely shape my life in similarly drastic ways.