"I don't want to give you any hope," he said as he looked down at his report. He glanced up at me and then away again. I would have wanted to avoid my eyes as well, I know.
I smiled and nodded my head, unable to speak any further. "I wish I could think of something to tell you, something to say, I have kids too, you know, I wouldn't know how to explain this."
"I'll figure it out." I opened the door for him and wished him happy holidays and watched as he got into his police car and drove away, shut the door, locked it and sat down and wept.
For the first Christmas in five years, I was planning to go see my family and stay there for the entire holiday season. My sister and I were nearly giddy with the thought of time, real time for our kids to play and to sit and just be together.
I had grasped my grandmothers hand on Christmas Eve and told her that I'd be out to see her soon, because the girls and I were staying for a while.
While the girls and I were away, others were in our home. Uninvited, unwanted and most seemingly, utterly uncaring.
I wonder still, sitting here, what they were thinking as they unhooked the Wii, how they felt taking all of their games, their toys, their electronics. What was going through their minds as they took Little A's piggy bank and emptied the contents.
This year for Christmas, the Queens and I talked; we had a small season for each other and instead purchased gifts for those less fortunate than us; there are many--there still are, I know this.
I had asked my family to send money to those that I knew were in need rather than purchasing me gifts this year. On Christmas Eve, I was upset to see a gift with my name on it and looked at my sister accusingly. "It was too late," she said, "I couldn't take it back. I still mailed the money; I wanted to mail the money." When I opened her gift, I nodded and wept. A DVD collection of the Detroit Tigers history and crucial games, including their series win in 1984. I whispered thank you and tried to reign myself back in. I think I've told you before that if childhood could take shape, mine would be in the form of a baseball?
It is here, probably selfishly, that I am sobbing still. Sitting on the top of the bookshelf made from wood from my grandparents barn, in front of a photo of my grandparents, sat a worn baseball on which was scribbled, "To Jennifer, Go Tigers, Kirk Gibson". Not much from my childhood made it through the water damage and then the fire this year. Like most everything else from my youth, now that baseball is gone, too.
Because of the two insurance claims this year, I cannot make a claim for this. Rather, I can, but then I won't have homeowners insurance. I left my daughters with family to come home and try to sort out what to do, but there really is no sorting to be done. I look over at one of their three presents, a wii game and look to the empty spot and try to figure out how to tell Little A that we don't have her things anymore.
Big A, of course, compiled a list of everything we had from 200 miles away. Strong, steady, enraged and only a little broken, with her touch of sarcasm, "I bet you feel really bad about not getting us anything now, don't you?" I love her. She and I will make this OK, somehow.
But the thought of telling Little A what happened; I cannot do that. Her heart is too good; her belief is too sincere. She waited and waited and waited all year for Christmas. She swears Santa is her best friend. She, who halts and averts her eyes from strangers, ran onto Santa's lap and hugged him. I will not tell her that on Christmas, someone came into our home and took her belongings, so I'm planning to lie. Or rather tell her a story. She loves stories; always each night, "Momma, will you tells me a story from when you was a little girl?"
I looked up the prices for a Wii and controllers and laughed. I looked up the prices to the games that we'd had and cried. I walked by the bookcase and outright sobbed.
"When they realize that the baseball is worthless to them because it has your name on it, they are probably going to....get rid of it," the policeman said. I remember a noise actually leaving my throat when he said that, but I quickly put my hand on my chest and smiled. I didn't know what else to do.
When he told me that he didn't want to give me hope, I didn't respond because I didn't think I could get the words out or get the quote right. I wanted to tell him that he didn't need to give me hope, because, for whatever reason, inside, I've always had it. After he left, I went to look up the exact words: Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark. ~George Iles.
I don't have to look back too far to be grateful for what we do have, this year alone we've seen a lot of our possessions ruined by either water or fire. We still have a home, still have each other, still have our pets. And, I suppose, in some way, I still have that baseball, wrapped up tightly with the memories of my youth, barring a few scratches and a worn, red thread.