Thursday, February 26, 2009


You know the cliched joke? Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you?

My level of paranoia walks the line between 'healthy respect of my surroundings' and 'seek mental help.' Part of this is due to my childhood. I grew up in a valley, with no neighbors visible on any side. Deer in the back yard, squirrels with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, and lots and lots and lots of trees. The kind of place where, if one chose to skinny dip at three in the afternoon, that was perfectly okay because no one would ever, ever see you. (Not that anyone ever did. I'm just saying.)

But this woodsy isolation had a dark side. I don't remember the exact time we were first burgled, but I remember the second time. We came home from Gram's house (Dad was fishing) and started to unpack. We were half-done when Mom noticed that the front door jam was busted. And we panicked and, to quote Grover the Monster, "ran like furry bunny rabbits." This was before cell phones (like they would have worked in the country anyway) so we raced to the neighbor's house and called the police.

The general consensus was that the burglars were still in the house when we came home, because there were a whole lot of tools and jewels (hey, a rhyme!) left upstairs when the police did a security check. That's right. We were in the house with robbers, and didn't even know it (although you can bet they did).

After that, Mom started hiding the jewelery that had survived two robberies. I'm not going to tell you where, either, because that's where I hide some of mine. But she lost most of her family heirloom pieces. It still hurts if she thinks about it too much.

After that, we got more vigilant. By this time, I was old enough to hang out by myself after school. I kept a knife on my belt at all times when I was alone, because even though we lived in the middle of nowhere, clearly people still knew where we were.

My sophomore year, it got worse. Mom picked me up from play practice one day, three weeks before Christmas and a few days before Dad's birthday, in furious tears. We'd been robbed - again - but this time was the worst.

They took her grandfather clock. That her father had given her. It had survived two burglaries and a fire, only to be carted out by some idiots doing their Christmas shopping.

That's right. I said Christmas shopping. All our carefully wrapped presents - gone. All Dad's birthday presents, gone. The grandfather clock, gone.

But these weren't your average idiots, oh no. They took weird things, odd things. They took my sister's New Kids On The Block big button from the top of her dresser. A few toys were gone, and a lot of my cheap sterling silver rings and things walked off.

This was a family affair. These robbers brought their kids in and did their Christmas shopping in our house. Who the hell else would take a NKOTB button but leave the collectibles that were worth hundreds of dollars? The bastards even took groceries, leaving the fridge door open.

Well, as you can imagine, that was the final straw. Mom got a security system installed the next day. A local guy - the national companies didn't go out as far as we lived, but still. It was LOUD. You could hear that thing across the valley and back.

Ironically, it didn't help. The only people who set it off were us kids, having locked ourselves out of the house and being forced to engage in a little breaking and entering of our own. A few years later, when I was in college, all of Dad's fishing equipment (and let me tell you, that is saying something) walked off, and we aren't even sure when it happened, because it was all in the barn, and the barn isn't alarmed. At least they left the boat, I guess.

But it's been a good ten years since intruders have made off with Mom's peace of mind. Maybe it helped that they retired and are around the house more, or maybe the slime of the world moved on to bigger fish, or maybe they just figured we didn't have anything left to steal. In any case, things have been quiet.

Until two nights ago, when it went off at 3:30. Scared the holy bejeesus out of the both of them, but it turns out that it was just a mouse that nibbled through the wiring. Nothing - but still enough to make my mom jumpy for the next week. They've already upgraded to the more vigilant monitoring package, and I think Dad actually cleaned the gun, just in case he has to break that bad boy back out.

And me? I live in a nice town now, with neighbors on every side (except for the people who winter in Alaska - this is their retirement home. I've only seen them once.) This is the kind of town where people not only leave their doors unlocked all day and night, but sometimes leave them open, with nothing but a screen to keep out bad guys. The neighbors are nice people who look out for us, and we look out for them. My alley neighbor told me at a Christmas party that he's had to shut our garage door a few times because he saw it was open and he just knew it shouldn't be. I've called people with keys when I've noticed windows open in the middle of January. It's not a formal neighborhood watch, but still, that support system is there. We have a lot of contractors going in and out, and I've had neighbors call just to make sure they were supposed to be there.


I sit in my office and watch the sidewalks on the days I'm home. Anyone doing something out of the ordinary gets my adrenaline pumping. I bolt the doors when I'm home alone. And one errant 'thump' after I've turned out my light at night will have me up, doing a perimeter check. My husband thinks I'm paranoid. But I do it anyway. You know why?

The neighbor who shuts our garage door? Someone broke into his house at 4 in the morning last October and took off with his computers. There were a string of home invasions out in 'the suburbs' (as much as the suburbs are in a town of 50,000) last year that really rattled people. (They caught the kid - and it was a neighborhood kid. He's doing time.)

My doors stay bolted. My escape plans are formed. I know exactly what I would use to defend myself in any given room. I can't even watch movies like that Taken because it gets my overactive imagination ramped up. The commercials made me nervous! Did you ever see that movie with Bruce Willis - Unbreakable? Where the bad guy just walks into a house, kills the dad, locks up the daughters, and assaults the wife? Sweet Jesus, I had nightmares for weeks. WEEKS! And it wasn't even that great of a movie!

A cliche is really just a true statement repeated so often that it becomes, well, cliche. It doesn't really matter to me that some people think I'm on the almond side of nutty, as long as the joke's not on me.

I intend to have the last laugh.


lucylucia said...

I think you are acting completely normal for what you guys have been through! I am a really light sleeper and am the designated "guard" for my apartment with my sister. This means that she closes her door to facilitate deep sleeps and I leave my door open, because the slightest sound wakes me up. I have been going crazy ever since we took in my mom's cat. All night, I hear loud footfalls, chairs being moved and thumps coming from nowhere. I bought a sound machine to drown out the noise of the cats playing at night and have just decided that if its my time, its my time!

Sarah M. Anderson said...

Yeah, sleep's a problem for me. It's not as bad in the winter - the house is closed up and the furnace runs, but in the summer, when we keep the windows open as much as possible, I have to have white noise.

Hey - thanks for reading, even though I didn't send out an irritating blog reminder! I'm doing a test to see if people remember without me bugging them.

lucylucia said...

My blog roll lets me know when the blogs that I read are updated! I love your blog!! :)