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An Open Letter to the Thieves
by Deborah Greenspan
Not so long ago, I came home from work to find that thieves had stolen the pillowcase off my bed, and in it, dumped all my jewelry. The jewelry box is a big one, standing in my bedroom, and in it I had a lifetime’s collection of stuff. Just stuff. Stuff of little value to anyone but me. Oh, there were a few good pieces worth something for their gold content, but their real value was nothing that could be bought or sold in any market.
The one that hurt me most belonged to my mother. My father gave it to her when I was nine or ten, and she wore it around her neck every day of her life. For a long time after she died, I wore it. I could almost feel her in it as it rested against my skin, and when I looked at it, I could see her walking through the hallways of memory. I’m not very visual; it’s hard to see things in my head. But when I looked at her charm, I could picture her face when she was young and alive.
This pin was also my mother’s. She bought it for herself when she was in her forties. She never had money, my mother. A lifetime of work and love, and she finally was able to reward herself with a little gold pin with synthetic stones. It wasn’t much really. What could you thieves have gotten for it? $50? $100? For me, it was a piece of my mother who worked so hard and for so little, giving her love to all of us, all the time, worthy or not.
I bought my mother a watch once when I grew up and started working. She loved it and wore it all the time. It cost about $100, which back then was a lot of money for me: half a week’s work. When my father gave it back to me after her funeral, I added it to my treasures. Just a watch. One I never wore because it was too slender and delicate for me. But it had been just right for my mother’s slim wrist.
I bought my mother so many little things in my life, with whatever money I could get. When I was eleven, I bought her a pin for about $5, which I got by collecting soda bottles off the roads and returning them for the nickel and dime deposits. She kept it in her jewel box all her life and when she was gone, I had it back again. It was a pin, gold colored, not real gold. It spelled out the word ‘Mother’ from which hung a heart engraved with the words, “Love, Debby.” Absolutely valueless. When you couldn’t sell it, you no doubt dropped it in the trash. But it burns a hole in my heart because it mattered to me. I could look at it and see my mother’s face laughing with delight at the love she knew had motivated me to give it to her and at my childish taste in jewelry.
There was more, so much more. Inside that pillowcase were several Anne Klein watches given to me by my daughters, a Brighton watch, costume jewelry galore, all with meaning only to me.
You got lots of broken jewelry, some that had been gifts from people I loved; people who also loved me, saved to be used in a craft project someday when I had time. In that pillowcase were the silver spiral earrings my friend brought back from Europe, the silver colored earrings with blue “gems” Barbara gave me when I admired them on her. The small torn black ribbon that had been pinned to my shirt the day of my mother’s funeral. That had also been in the jewelry box.
Yes, this is what you got, bits of my life dumped in a pillowcase, most of it worthless to anyone but me. To me, it was priceless. It was just stuff, but it was my stuff. I know you won’t return it. I know the gold has been sold for some small amount of cash, and the trinkets, those worthless trinkets now reside in the dump, buried under the garbage.
I wish I could say that I don’t understand why you thieves did this. But unfortunately, I do. Because when I was young, I did stupid, selfish things too. I hurt people with my need and my fear just as you thieves have hurt me. I know you think that little money is going to save you, but I can promise you from the bottom of my heart that it won’t. Nothing will save you except a long walk on the straight and narrow. Go back to school. Learn something. Be a human being. Give something back to the world. That is all that can save you from your despair; the only way to atone for your mistakes. No one else’s jewelry will do it.
For me, this letter is a way to remember what is lost. Just like my mother’s jewelry was a way to remember her, this letter is a grave marker—for now she is truly gone from my life. It’s also a prayer that somewhere, you will remember that day, that pillowcase, that jewelry, and make amends—somehow, somewhere, to someone—for all the people you’ve hurt, not just me.
Do you have a story to tell? Contact Deborah at Breezeway Books.