My first instinct was actually to say very little about this experience. I thought maybe I would make a joke or two about how having a car stolen wasn’t the most dramatic or frustrating part of my weekend, and maybe say something else to demonstrate my strength and resilience.
But why? To prove to a few people who know me that I’m strong and resilient? They already know. To prove to a handful of strangers who stumble upon this blog that I’m strong and resilient? Who gives a shit. Really, I wanted to write about it, or not write about it, to make myself feel better. I don’t need to do that.
I am allowed to feel a little shaken up and exploring those feelings doesn’t make me less strong or resilient, and exploring those feelings won’t cause me to be less strong or resilient.
So here we go.
We had a long weekend, first because it was filled with fun family activities, then because of drama with the extended family (in-laws), and finally, because I heard a strange noise at 3 am and discovered it was the sound of our car being stolen.
I didn’t sleep well, but that’s not unusual, and when I woke up and heard a beeping sound, I really thought one of the smoke detectors had a dead battery, or maybe the neighbor had something going on. I didn’t want to wake my husband, because I knew he was exhausted, but eventually I said, “Hey, are you awake? Do you hear that beeping?”
I probably could have found a more gentle way to wake him, but we are both used to waking up to infant or child screams, so it could have been worse.
“It’s something outside,” he mumbled, and rolled over. He was awake though, and when we heard it again, he got up to see what was going on.
That beeping was the sound of the car thief, who broke into one car and found a set of keys for the other and was engaging the alarm to find out which car belonged to the keys. HW was just in time to see a man driving away in our car.
We called the police right away and they arrived soon after. They were very nice, and we filled out the paperwork and looked up at a beautiful full moon. I wore my new flannel shirt because there was a light breeze, and I have become a huge baby when the temperature drops below 82 degrees, which I’ve decided is my perfect temperature. At that point we didn’t know how the car was stolen or that anything happened to the other car, and we were mostly feeling thankful they didn’t take the car we use most often. It had not really occurred to me that we were ever in any danger, until the officer told us he had an idea about who did it.
He told us that there have been a few incidents in the neighborhood these past few weeks. A few people reported a “peeping tom,” someone who was looking in their windows at night, and a few others had reported things stolen. The officer said the man was targeting women who were alone with children, which sent a shiver down my spine. He added that things have escalated, and the last report indicated that the man was standing naked outside of a woman’s window, watching her in her nightgown, masturbating. I cringed as I wrote that and I’m not sure if the cringe was the memory of how hearing that made me feel or at having to write a word I find so repulsive. Or maybe I’m somehow a better Catholic than I thought.
The officer helpfully added that when things reach that point, when a person goes that far, the situation typically gets worse, and the police department was dedicating a lot of effort to catch this man before he takes “the next step.”
I asked if he had any advice for us until they catch him, and he said the usual things, though I was surprised how much he emphasized the importance of having a gun. He suggested a security system, closing the blinds, and locking doors, all common sense things that we already do to as a matter of course.
We came back inside and tossed and turned until the alarm went off, in the form of our youngest son waking up for the day at 5 am.
This episode brings up a lot of different feelings for me, that I think break down into two main categories. First, it stirs up a lot of fears about my physical safety and the physical safety of my children. Second, it adds a layer of complexity to questions about my position on gun control. Underlying all of this, of course, are issues concerning feminism and motherhood, but I can’t think of a way to neatly separate those concerns from the other feelings, maybe because they are part of everything else I write about.
I wrote, a couple of weeks ago, about a bad experience I had. I promised to write more, and I will, though given that I still have a hard time even typing the word “rape” and I have a few other things going on at the moment, it might be some time before I dive back into that topic. I’m not sure if this police officer meant to imply that this person might be capable of rape, but that is how I interpreted what he said, and it would be difficult to imagine what else the next step could be in that context.
Interestingly, in my early twenties, I worried far less about my physical safety. I walked alone at night in places I had no business walking even in broad daylight, I talked to anyone I met, and I lived in some fairly questionable neighborhoods. I’m not sure when that changed, but it was, I think, about the time I had my first child. I thought about rape and worried about rape before that, but mostly when it came to people I knew and when sex was somehow already a part of the conversation. As soon as I typed that last sentence I started to doubt whether it’s true or not, and I don’t think it is. A better thing to write might be that I worried about rape qua rape – what it would be like to be raped, how it would feel, how it would damage me. Later, I began to worry about rape as something that could happen to me, but hurt other people or limit my ability to care for them, or something that could happen just before I died. I realize that’s much darker, but it’s also more honest.
I am a physically small person. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that I have the build of most frail ten year old boys. I am also pretty tough. I once delivered a baby who was almost 10% of my body weight when the pregnancy started. I have super-mom strength in every day life, you know, like those stories about mothers lifting cars in cases of emergency? Kind of like that, only lifting a double stroller up to shoulder height to fit it in the back of our SUV, or lugging thirty pounds of limp (yet somehow still tantruming) toddler through the market. Still, I am aware that I am smaller than most people, I have never taken a self-defense course or anything like that, and really, I am not in the best shape of my life.
We live in a safe neighborhood, as we always have, and we do what we can to make things safe. We use alarms, advanced locking systems, gates, and we even have a German Shepherd who would, I am convinced, tear out someone’s throat if it meant protecting me or the children. Still, there are times I think we should do more.
Then I think, always, about how I want to live my life, and how I want our children to live. I don’t want to live in fear all of the time, and I certainly don’t want my children to live that way. I want us to live happy lives, trusting other people to be and to do good. It’s a constant balancing act that started the day they were born (or really even before) – staying calm, trusting, believing the best, and also protecting, preventing, verifying.
I don’t want to live in a fortress with armed guards. I want to live in a vibrant, interactive community, where people share recipes and stories and care for one another. I want my children to play and believe, because it’s true, that every person they meet wishes them well. I also want my children to be safe. I want to be safe.
To that end, last night, or early this morning, I pulled out our gun, and dug out the ammunition, which we of course keep separate, and I held it in my hands. I haven’t touched it since we got it, almost three years ago, and haven’t touched a gun in almost twenty years. It felt good to hold it in my hands. Solid, cool, just heavy enough. I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until I forced it out through my nose. “Could I ever pull this trigger?” I wondered, already knowing before I finished the question in my mind the answer was absolutely, yes.
I thought about how my beliefs about guns and gun control have evolved over the years. Growing up I was surrounded by hunting and I found it barbaric. I learned to shoot, but only handguns, and only at soda cans or targets, and I have to this day never killed an animal larger than a spider. By the time I was old enough to realize there were competing views on gun control and use, I thought the use of guns was outdated and for rednecks and wanted nothing to do with it. Did I mention I was a vegan and joined Amnesty International? True story.
Later, as my views became more conservative and I became more concerned about how rights are definite under the Constitution, I started to relent a little bit. Those views are more complicated than I want to explain here, but it was convenient timing, because as a new parent, I liked the idea of having my own gun to be able to protect myself and my child if I needed to. I felt the same way as a single parent, and later when we moved to a larger city, but I never bought my own gun.
As we moved around and lived different places, I started to think about how people in different parts of the country viewed guns. It ranged from gun clubs organized by SAHMs to mothers requiring other mothers to sign a “I don’t keep a gun in the house” agreement before scheduling a playdate or sleepover. I needed to work out, and I am still working out, where I fall on the spectrum.
This is what I decided. I don’t like the idea of other people having guns. I don’t trust other people with guns. I don’t trust that they know what they are doing, and I don’t trust their motives. On the other hand, I want a gun, and I think I should be able to have one. I know how to use it, I take every reasonable precaution and then some, and I would only use it to defend the physical safety of my children. Have I mentioned that despite my imperfect eyesight, I am a great shot? It’s true.
Is that a rational position to take on gun control? Of course not. This is why I am a blogger and not a politician – which also means I can be honest about what I believe. I don’t want other people to have guns, but I have one, and I wholeheartedly believe I would use it if I had to.
I’m sure some might be tempted to say that’s hypocritical. Maybe. Here is the thing: I trust myself with a gun because I know myself. I know I have experience handling a gun. I know how to keep it out of reach and hidden, how to maintain it, how to load it, how to aim, how to shoot. I know I am mentally stable and I do not abuse drugs. I know I would only use it as a last resort, in self defense.
I can’t say the same thing, with complete certainty, about any other person.
What does that mean for my political position on guns? I don’t know. I guess I don’t have one beyond, “I should be allowed to have a gun, but no one else should.”
Today passed by without incident. There were phone calls to insurance companies, attempts to locate receipts, discussions about how to best move forward, and a dog who followed my every move, every second of the day, and who barked mercilessly at any person who came anywhere near our block. She is ridiculous and so incredibly sweet. I’m thinking maybe she can start sleeping on the end of our bed.
I thought about the concept of “luck” and what the past two years have been like. I try to focus on all of our blessings, all of the good things in our lives, and there are so many good things. I try to have a sense of humor about all of this. I try not to think about what it will be like to go to sleep tonight, or wonder whether I will toss and turn, or have bad dreams. I try not to keep looking over my shoulder, or waiting for some other kind of disaster.
I ended my post from last night with “I do know that HW is hurting, so I am going to spend some time with him while we wait for the other shoe to drop.”
Tonight, I am going to end my post differently. We have had a long day, but HW and I love each other very much, so I am going to spend some time with him while we think about how blessed we are and thank God that we are all safe and together
and everyone else can go fuck themselves.
And then, just before closing my computer, this came up on my newsfeed. Fifty-four days of prayer. Ok. I hear You. Let’s do it.