Every year I take March 18th off from work.
It’s the day my mom died, three years ago, and since then the family has used it as a way to commemorate her in different ways. The first year we all got together and went through boxes of old family photos. The second year I sprung my teenage cousin (my mom’s goddaughter) from school and we went to Pastrygirl for cupcakes, and then my brother and I went up to the cemetery.
This was how today was supposed to go: breakfast at Slappy Cakes with Christopher, visit to the cemetery, leisurely afternoon of family time and reminiscing about my mom. Maybe I would write. Maybe I would call my sister. But whatever happened, I would spend a concentrated chunk of time thinking about Theresa Willett. I look forward to it every year, knowing it will make me sad but also knowing that it makes a difference having an anniversary, a designated piece of time where we all collectively remember her. She was big into rituals, she would have liked that.
This was the day I actually had: I woke up, as most of you probably know by now, to a living room full of shattered broken glass, a dining room window full of holes and cracks (one cop says someone threw something at it, one cop says someone SHOT something at it; we’re going with cop #1 so I sleep tonight), a stolen purse (and all the hideously annoying logistics that entails), and the knowledge that somebody ballsy enough to shatter a window was in my house while I was home, asleep.
So that was my day. There was a cop, there was a police forensics tech, there was a locksmith, there were two guys working like 4 hours to replace the door, there was glass everywhere, there were dozens of phone calls to make – I had to get to the DMV, I had to cancel my cards, I had to get new keys to both of my offices, I had to put curtains on all my windows so nobody could see in from the street. Theft-related things were happening from 8 a.m. until 7 at night.
I should be totally pissed right now. But instead, all I am is grateful.
I’m grateful to have homeowner’s insurance. I’m grateful that my insurance agent is my Uncle Daryl, who loves the crap out of me and will go above and beyond to help me out.
I’m grateful that my dad and stepmom dropped what they were doing to come spend an entire day helping me sweep up broken glass, bringing me coffee and food, dealing with the cops and repair guys, taking me shopping for curtains because I have no checks or credit cards with which to purchase anything myself.
I’m grateful for my cousin Erica, who gave me my first real laugh of the day when she informed me A) “They make pink guns, you know”; and B) “I think you need to hang a picture of a giant scary dog on your door that says ‘MY DOG WILL EAT YOUR NUTS FOR BREAKFAST.'”
I’m grateful for my hilarious grandfather, who called to check in and gave me my second real laugh of the day. ME: “Tell Grandma I said hi and I love her.” GRANDFATHER: “Oh, she’s right here. She’s been talking to me the whole time but I can’t listen to both of you at once.”
I’m grateful for all the dozens upon dozens upon of people who called, emailed, texted, or sent Facebook messages and urging me to call them immediately if there was anything I needed, no matter how small. (ANSWER: Cupcakes.)
I’m grateful that all they took was my purse. Yes, I LOVED that purse, but everything in it was replaceable. They didn’t take framed pictures of my mom. They didn’t take my grandmother’s rosaries. They didn’t take the picture Gilberto painted me for my birthday. They didn’t take anything that a few phone calls and a shopping trip (once I get my new debit card in 10 days) won’t fix.
I’m grateful for the people who had no reason at all to be kind to me and were. My dad had to cancel a meeting to come over and be with me, and like 10 of his employees called or emailed him to ask if I was okay after they heard what happened. The cops were really nice. The locksmith was really nice. The lady on the phone at Chase was really nice. My dad’s contractor rushed right out within like an hour and two guys were at my house on and off all day trying to get me a new door (apparently, due to the previous owner’s shoddy installation, it was a way more complex job than you’d think). They were empathetic and lovely and sweet.
I’m grateful to know how many friends I have – how many places I could go stay in an emergency, how many people I could call at 4 a.m. if I needed to, how many people send prayers and good thoughts when the bad things happen.
I’m grateful for my family. My father is a superhero. My sister called like five hundred times to make sure I was okay. My brother offered to come over with breakfast. My stepmom spent like HOURS measuring every damn window in my house (there are like 16, all different sizes) and finding curtain rods and curtains for each one and then running back and forth to the store because we were off by one, and then hanging them all, and then returning armed with supplies to singlehandedly attack my (admittedly less pressing but still annoying) issue of the Ant Infestation From Hell.
I’m grateful for Hector Protector sleeping on the floor of my TV room, who decided that what I really needed to cheer me up was dinner at the new Podnah’s Pit on Killingsworth followed by several hours of “What Not To Wear.” I am grateful to have a friend that makes me feel better and safer and happier simply by being physically present in my house. (Although, while we’re on the topic of Gilberto, may I just alert you to this fact: twice during the entirety of our relationship we have said, “We need to pick a weekend to just sit down and write” and made a plan for him to come over and stay all weekend at my house so we could work. Twice. BOTH TIMES, someone broke into my house the night before. You could argue that Gilberto is the worst luck ever, because he causes my house to be robbed, OR you could argue that he is the BEST luck ever, because for the two weekends of my life when I most needed a tall tattooed Mexican guy sleeping in my house in order to feel safe, I happened to have one already booked. It’s a textbook half-full/half-empty scenario, really.)
I’m grateful I’m not someone that has to break into people’s houses. I’m grateful I have the life I have, and I’m the person I am, and not the person who stole my purse (or, for that matter, the person who stole my laptop in October during what I’m now calling “Break-In #1: Original Flavor.”)
I’m grateful they didn’t hurt me, or anyone else. I’m grateful I didn’t wander into the kitchen at 2 a.m. for a glass of water and find them. I’m grateful there’s no lasting damage. I’m grateful that things are replaceable. Even iPods. Even doors. Even fabulous purses from Chicago.
And underneath and inside of all that, I’m grateful for my mother. I did not inherit her gift for organization, her level head in an emergency, or her detail-oriented, list-making brain. Those things would have been EXTREMELY useful today. But what she did pass onto me was the ability to find hope and joy and humor in anything, and that was what made today bearable.
I didn’t get a chance to sit quietly with my brother at the cemetery and think about her today, like I wanted to. But she was totally there.