Burglars took my stuff, but not my memories
By Susan Dyer Reynolds
I never thought it would happen to me. That’s why I never wrote down serial numbers, or saved receipts in an organized fashion, or turned the alarm on every time I left the house. But on a rainy afternoon in early February, it did happen to me – I left my alarm off, burglars broke into my home, and they took everything. Well, at least everything they could sell on eBay, Craig’s List, or at the flea market.
Alan, who trains my pit bull, Jasmine Blue, discovered what had happened when he came to get her for Thursday playgroup. I was picking up perogies at the supermarket when I got the call, and Alan let me know right away that Jazzy, who had been in the house during the burglary, was OK, which was really the only thing that mattered to me. The fact is, stuff, no matter how sentimental, is just stuff. Most of it can be replaced, some of it can’t, but while the burglars stole it all, they couldn’t steal my memories.
The majority of the things I lost are replaceable – an iPhone, iPods, Mac computers, stereo equipment, cameras, flat screen TVs, costume, semiprecious and precious stone jewelry, even Christmas presents I hadn’t had a chance to give out to people I don’t see as often as I’d like. Two of the strangest items taken were a bottle of dog multivitamins and a pink dog training harness. The vitamins were unopened and the harness was still in the package, causing me to have an epiphany – I always wondered why flea market sellers often have brand new items that also happen to be very eclectic, from cans of hairspray to tube socks. Now I know.
The most disturbing moment came when I entered my father’s bedroom. He passed away in June of 2008, and I haven’t yet had the heart to go through his things. The drawers of his nightstand were ripped out and the contents dumped all over the floor like so much trash. There was nothing valuable in those drawers – trinkets like chips from casinos; things he liked to take out and look at in the late stages of his dementia. Many nights I sat near his bedside drinking hot chocolate with him and listening to fanciful tales about the origins of those trinkets. The burglars had stepped on and broken them, and that upset me far more than the flat screen TVs they tore off the walls.
Most of the jewelry they took was costume or newer with little sentimental value, but two of the pieces are irreplaceable: the European-cut diamond ring set in platinum that my grandfather brought from Sicily and gave to my grandmother, who passed it on to my mother, who passed it on to me; and the pear cut pink diamond ring my boyfriend gave me.
I always loved pink, so when he got a multi-CD deal with Geffen Records and a $200,000 advance, he bought it for me as a Christmas gift. It was just six months after my mother had passed away; my first Christmas without her, and he knew how difficult that was for me, especially since he had to go to London to record. I always enjoyed our dual holiday tradition: he would celebrate Christmas Eve with my family and the Feast of the Seven Fishes, and I would celebrate Hanukkah with his family (and his Greek father would always slip us a little ouzo with that famous twinkle in his eye).
That rainy December morning when my boyfriend gave me the ring – it was beautiful and sparkly, just like that eye twinkle he inherited from his father – I got a strange feeling; a feeling that I wasn’t going to see him again. As he backed down the driveway with his trademark dimpled smile, just hours from leaving for London, I suddenly ran out into the rain and threw myself against him, weeping. A full foot taller than I, he wrapped his strong arms around me and kissed my forehead. “I’ll always love you, Sue,” he said, “no matter what happens, I want you to know that.”
I watched him drive away, amazed by the ring but still bothered by that feeling I just couldn’t seem to shake. A week later I got a phone call from his bass player. “You need to sit down,” he said, and without another word, I knew.
For weeks prior to his trip, my boyfriend had been complaining that his heart felt funny. He would joke that it was the effect I had on him, but it turned out he had an inherited heart condition. A ski trip to the Alps with the musicians proved fatal: the altitude brought on cardiac arrest and, after three hours of trying, the doctors couldn’t save him.
It was those twinkling golden eyes and strong arms that got me through my mother’s death, and six months later, just like that, he too was gone.
I took the ring off that night and never wore it again. It was beautiful, but it was also a reminder of what never would be. Every time I looked at it, I was filled with regrets: When he complained about his heart, I should have taken him to the hospital. When I had the pit in my stomach that last day, I should have stopped him from going to London. I should have married him and had that child he wanted instead of putting journalism school first …
Over the last several years, thanks in part to the “Bennifer” debacle, when Ben Affleck gave one to Jennifer Lopez, pink diamonds grew in popularity, and in price. I could never bring myself to sell it, but I also couldn’t bring myself to wear it. Because it was so unique, the ring will likely wind up overseas, and chances of recovering it are next to nil. But the memory of that handsome, talented young man backing down my driveway in the rain moments after giving it to me are as fresh today as ever, and no thief can steal that.
I would like to thank the folks at Broadview Security (formerly Brinks) for quickly turning my home into a technological Fort Knox that even James Bond would be proud of (if I had turned the alarm on in the first place, of course, I probably wouldn’t be writing this column).