When The World Comes To You

IMG_5361The world walked right up my driveway, opened my unlocked car door, sat down behind the wheel and had a smoke. He settled in, rifled through the glove compartment, popped the trunk. He took the quarters in the console and a pair of sunglasses, but not the phone charger. The dog must have been barking like crazy – she goes nuts over a falling leaf – but he took his time, finished his cigarette. I found the ground out butt on the floor of the car a few days later.

I can’t stop thinking about this stranger in my car. The scene unfolds in my head as I piece together the details, both real and made up, until it’s as if I witnessed the whole thing myself. I imagine it was a man, a young man. Waiting, watching for us to leave, he strode up to the car, opened the door and slid right in. He was nervous, but only a little because he’d done this before. He searched for a garage door opener, but found nothing, noticed the alarm stickers all over the windows and thought better of trying the door to the house. The $4 worth of quarters wouldn’t get him far, but at least he wouldn’t leave empty handed. Smoking the cigarette calmed him.

Almost a week later, the story I’ve made up has become a memory that haunts me.

When this stranger crossed the line from his world into mine, he stepped right into my shiny, lovely, safe bubble of a life. The fences, the alarm, the barking dog; the private school, piano lessons, the soccer team; the Uggs, the fancy party dresses, the fresh organic food – this is a life of pretty and privilege. A not so good day is when a favorite t-shirt goes missing, the dog barfs on the carpet or the three-year-old pulls the 10-year-old’s hair. We do not talk about the terrible and horrifying – soldiers burned alive, children fighting wars, mothers who cannot feed their starving babies. We turn our three girls towards love and light and hope for grace, shielding them from the worst.

We do not tell them about the stranger walking up the driveway and sitting in our car. I think this brush with the world’s empty pockets and ill will, desperation and darkness would be the scariest news of all. They do not understand why anyone would want or need to violate our space and property. For me it’s more unsettling than scary: the unknown world has come to us here in our bubble wanting what we have.

I look out of my bedroom window across the front yard. The plum trees are starting to bloom, the delicate pale pink petals popping up along the slender branches. It’s only the beginning of February, too early I think for the plum trees to bloom. This too is unsettling, but because it’s beautiful, we don’t flinch.

This is the world, horrible and gorgeous and it’s not for us to control. A stranger will open my unlocked car door and sit in the driver’s seat for as long as it takes to finish a cigarette – maybe longer. Trees will bloom too early in the season. Rain will flood the dry hills, washing out the roads. Guns will go off a few miles away. I know it’s happening somewhere out there, but I am here in my bubble, holding my three girls close, letting them cry over spilt milk and burnt toast, wondering if I have time to go to the gym before meeting a friend for lunch.

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “The memory that haunts me is…”

Your host is Kristi Campbell of Finding Ninee and co-hosts are Vidya of Coffee With Mi and Anna of Fitfunner.

23 thoughts on “When The World Comes To You

  1. I know. I completely understand your sense of violation and your reluctance to share it with your kids. This reminds me of my mom being involved in a bank holdup. She was in her early 80’s at the time and was innocently withdrawing money. A guy pulled out a gun next to her and she quickly dropped her head to avoid eye contact. He got his cash and ran. Bank shut down and she had to give info to the police. She called me right after and I had to limit my response as my two were listening nearby. They must have been about 6 and 7. “What happened to Gaga?” “Uh, not much. Do you want more milk?” When Mom spilled the beans a good ten years later “Well of course I was in that bank holdup…” my guys were stunned. But I saved them and me a lot of trauma and possibly sleepless nights.

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    1. I think you’re right Kelly. The timing has to be right otherwise it’s just too scary for them and not useful. I’m trying to help my older one to understand that she needs to be more aware of what’s happening around her. Also, I just have to say, adventure runs in your family!

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    1. It’s tricky because I want them to be alert and smart about their safety but I don’t want to scare them unnecessarily. I think the 12yo can deal with it, but probably not the 10yo. So far I’ve just been counseling them to keep their wits about them in general. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. You wrote this beautifully, Lisa – my initial confusion and disbelief, and then realizing what had happened…I’m still a bit freaked out. As I’m sure you were. I completely relate to your bubble, and I find one of the hardest parts of being a parent is dealing with your children’s discovery that the world isn’t under Mom and Dad’s control.

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    1. Thanks Dana. It’s really hard to know what and how much to tell my older girls (10 & 13). They’re both pretty mature, but then again, they’re just kids and I don’t want to scare them. I do want them to be tuned in, though, to the world around them.

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  3. I loved this post on so many levels, Lisa. Thank you for your brutal honesty and sincere contemplation blown through seriously-talented writing. I was transported with every word.

    Blessings to you,
    Dani

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  4. Hi Lisa: I can sympathize with you. The house where we were living was broken into a few years ago. I had just left to run an errand, and came back to notice several things (mostly computers) were missing. Eventually, the young man was caught, and some of the items returned to us. But the feeling of violation remained. I also had to explain to my young children what had happened in a way that wouldn’t freak them out. Fortunately, they rode right past my anxiety, so no lasting harm to them. So I understand your feelings and concern and am sending you thoughts of safety and happiness. Great post!

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    1. Thanks so much Anna. I’m not going to tell the kids and they haven’t noticed anything missing since it was a pretty small time burglary. The thing that gets me the most is that the guy sat in the car and had a smoke. Too weird.

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  5. Damn. Ok Lisa. I’m left with three thoughts. Maybe more.
    1. HOLY CRAP! I’d have been so completely unsettled from that. Back in the days when I live more “in the hood” my car (Jeep) was broken into ALL the time and I always felt so violated… I can’t transfer that feeling to my “safe” hood now although I did see my neighbor topless today – she’s got some mental health issues and that’s another story…
    2. This is some amazing writing and imagery and I love that
    3. You okay??? I mean, that’s got to stick with you…

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    1. Thanks so much Kristi — I’m okay. I just can’t stop thinking about this person, whoever it was, being on our property, in our car, so close to the house. It wasn’t a violent break in because we left the car doors unlocked (which we won’t do anymore!). Maybe because the car was in the driveway we thought it was “safe?” I don’t feel that safe now and I really don’t want my kids to catch on. Definitely feeling vulnerable but also more vigilant, like I’m on high alert. We live in a nice neighborhood, but, as my mom likes to remind me, it’s still Oakland. You know what though, I love Oakland, even with this stuff.

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    1. It was definitely a little freaky. We pieced together what had happened over the course of a couple of days — rolls of meter money gone, then noticed the sunglasses, then a couple items from the trunk. Finally I noticed the cigarette butt when I went to adjust the seat. Yick and sort of creepy for sure.

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      1. Totally, and such an unusual kind of violation of security! I’m glad he didn’t steal the car or anything but that’s just weird! Ergh. Have you been able to safeguard against it reoccurring?

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      2. Well, we’re taking the extensive measure of actually locking our car doors now! Very scientific. We also alerted our alarm company to be on the lookout. They have a safety patrol car that drives along our street at random times.

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    1. It IS scary, but it’s also a revelation for me: I can’t keep the world out even though I really don’t want to engage in all the horrible. I have to find ways of living outside of my bubble without fear. Not sure yet what that will look like…

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