I sometimes struggle with the social side of the holidays. I don't enjoy shopping - outside of bookstores - and I get anxious about buying the right presents. The bookish people are easy, there are just too few of them on my list. But with my list resolutely in hand, I headed out Wednesday evening. Walking from the parking lot to the store, I was hit from behind by a man who then grabbed my purse. I felt this disbelief that it was really happening, and also outrage that he was trying to take my purse. I held on as hard as I could, yelling at him, but he managed to rip the bag from its straps and run off. A woman who had seen the whole thing led me into the store and found the manager for me, even though her young son was upset by what had happened.
I only had a few dollars in my wallet, but of course the thief got my credit cards and driver's license (not my car or house keys, thankfully). He also got my phone, and my reading glasses - which leaves me half-blind. I've done everything I can to protect myself against identity theft and access to my bank accounts. Tomorrow I have to figure out what to do about my phone. And get a new library card. At least he probably hasn't been checking out books in my name.
After the police came to file a report, I drove home to make all the necessary calls. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep for hours, if at all, so I made a big mug of hot cocoa and climbed under the covers with Jeanne Ray's Eat Cake. I had been thinking of this book all night (it's high on my list of comforting books). The narrator Ruth's mother Hollis came to live with her after a day-time robbery.
I wish I could find the person, the people, who kicked in her door. I have never gotten over my need to tell them that they took too much. The television, the stereo, largely worthless jewelry, six pieces of family silver which included her mother's butter dish that had come over with the family on the boat from Denmark, they could have all of that, but they shouldn't have kicked in the door. That was the thing that changed my mother for good. Divorce and hard work and single motherhood - she was up for all of those challenges. But to be seventy-three years old and know that someone can just kick in your door, that they don't even have enough finesse to force the lock, really destroyed her sense of how the world was ordered. It scared her, my mother, who had always been such a brave person. Even after it was long over it left her unsure of things.One of the threads in this lovely story is watching Hollis find her way out of that fear and into a new independence.
Usually I line up some seasonal mysteries to read at Christmas, and I've been saving two of the British Library Crime Classics (Mystery in White and The Santa Klaus Murder). But even fictional crime seems less appealing right now. I want the literary equivalent of hot cocoa and flannel sheets and a cat sleeping nearby. In the meantime, I will put up Christmas lights and make the family's traditional candy. And I'll be thankful that the man didn't have a gun (and neither did anyone else), grateful for everyone who helped me, and mindful of how many people are suffering much worse violence and mourning much greater losses.