January 17th was my 35th birthday. I took off an hour early to go home and celebrate with my wife. Not only were we celebrating my birthday, but we were having Christmas, for us.
I parked in the driveway and headed for the mailbox. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jae bend down and pick up a piece of paper. I stopped when she said, "Oh shit."
"What," I asked.
"This is a check. It was in our bedroom."
Forgetting the mail and the groceries in the back of the car, we rushed round to the back door. Still closed and locked. Must have been a window then, but they all have bars. How?
We entered the kitchen through the back door. Cabnets and cupboards were open; rags from under the sink were strewn on the floor. It was cold. Colder as we headed for the living room. All the windows have bars, but the swamp cooler vents, vented, through one window in the living room. The swamp cooler was lying on its side on the ground, next to the blocks it used to be on. Scattered in pieces were the interior cover for the vent, the insulation. The bedroom was the other room that had been ransacked. The contents of dresser drawers were emptied out on the floor. He took the change jar off the dresser.
The cops came and went. I went and told our neighbors, so they could be on the alert. Ben and Neena came over to wait with us, and on learning it was my birthday, offered to take us out for dinner. We went to the Saigon 2000 Restaurant and Emissions Testing. They make these great sandwiches with the same pork they put in the Bun. On the way home, Jae was talking about the cleaning up, and said that it wasn't any worse than if we ever threw a wild party. That got a laugh, and some riffing on the theme:
"Hey, remember that party where the swamp cooler got pushed out the window?"
"Yeah, and all the sex toys came out of the dresser!"
"That was a good party."
While putting stuff back in the drawers of the dresser, I found a treasure I had almost forgotten. I inherited a watch from my Grandpa Hamm. The watch was just a cheap plastic watch, but the sentimental value it carried was huge. I wore it a little bit, and then one of the corners that holds the strap broke off. For my next birthday, Jae found the case of an old, silver pocket watch, and encased Grandpa's watch inside. I keep it in a black velvet bag in my drawer, and hadn't noticed seen it for a couple years. Finding it reminded me of Grandpa, of how much my family means to me, and how great my wife is.
We exchanged presents, after cleaning up. Jae had found this great photo mat that holds multiple different sized photos. She used it to frame pictures of her, me, my parents, my siblings, and my Grandpa Gentry. It reminded me of Grandpa, of how much my family means to me, and how great my wife is.
Later, as we sat together reading and sipping mulled wine, we could see Ben and Neena's Christmas lights, still up on their fence. It was one of my best birthdays.
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