The summer of 2007 was not an easy one for my family. I tried my absolute hardest to provide my young children with an enjoyable and “normal” summer while simultaneously caring for my ailing mother during the final months of her life. Cloaked with the façade of a calm and carefree spirit, I tried to take my kids on educational outings, read with them, play with them, and entertain my charges, just as I would during any other vacation. In my wish to keep them happy and constructively busy, it seems I let my guard way down and in a totally out of character occurrence, I agreed to let the school rabbit live in our home over the course of the summer. I am no animal lover (unless they’re stuffed), and this extra dependent minor was not something I needed to add right then to my already full plate. But before I knew it, “Rebbie Rabbit,” as he was affectionately (to some) known, was running around my living room, scattering his wood shavings in his wake. At least my kids were kept busy with something wholesome.
One day that summer I took my kids to pay a visit to my mother. My mother had always managed to interact with them in a cheerful and loving way, even when she was sick. Unfortunately, on that particular day, my mother had been in a lot of pain and was not really up for a visit. It was quite upsetting to see her suffer and not be able to help improve her situation in any significant way. My mother’s aide was also at a loss as to how to help her feel better. Eventually, with heavy hearts, we left and headed back home. By this point I was not able to keep up my “All’s well with the world” veneer, and I drove home carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.
While my head was flooded with thoughts of doom, gloom, and helplessness regarding my mother’s condition, I suddenly remembered that we had been out of the house all day, and I had totally forgotten about Rebbie Rabbit! I had visions of my family walking through our front door and finding a dead rabbit sprawled across our living room floor. That would have been the perfect ending to an already emotionally trying day. I thought to rush straight home to feed the rabbit if it was still alive, but I also needed to feed my children. Cooking supper, however, was definitely not on my to-do list for that evening. In addition to everything that was going on, our family was scheduled to leave for a camping trip the very next day. Of course, at that point, I had about as much interest in camping as I did in studying the characteristics of parasitic amoebae, but we were still bent on providing our kids with as normal a vacation as possible. In the end, I dropped off one of my sons to feed the rabbit while I took the rest of the brood to get some takeout pizza.
When we returned, pizza in hand, we found my son standing helplessly outside our house. He tried to tell me that for some inexplicable reason he had been unable to unlock our front door, but I was on the phone with my mother’s aide who had called to tell me that my mother seemed to be in terrible pain. I was totally focused on my conversation with the aide and had zero headspace for things such as keys, locks, or rabbits, dead or alive. I asked my eldest son to climb up onto our shed, enter our house through a bedroom window, and open the front door for the rest of us. A minute later my kids were inside the house and quickly opened the door leading to the backyard where I had been standing to make sure that our “climber” was safe, all the while trying to make some sort of plan with my mother’s aide but coming up with a big fat nothing, When I came inside, my kids told me that the rabbit had survived our unintended neglect of him but our house was a huge mess. I couldn’t really focus on what they were saying, and matter-of-factly explained that the mess they were looking at was the same mess we had left when we had headed out that morning. When we leave a mess, we come back to a mess. Simple logic. Suddenly, son number two rushed over to me and told me that his mp3 was missing. I was certain that he had just misplaced it and I confidently reassured him that we would find it as soon as we found our way through the mess.
It was only about two hours later that it occurred to me to check exactly why my son had been unable to unlock our front door. It turned out that the latch on our front door had been locked from the inside. I finally put two and two together and realized that could mean only one thing: There had been an intruder in our home. We had been robbed! Although our house had not been spic-and-span when we left in the morning, the mess we found when we returned was not the mess we had left. My son’s mp3 had indeed been stolen along with some of my jewelry that I had unfortunately left out on my shelf. Our liquor had also been stolen, but we didn’t realize that until the following Shabbos when my husband reached for a l’chayim after we ate our fish course. I was not particularly happy about any of this, but I had more pressing concerns to deal with.
I called the police because I figured it was the responsible thing to do. I also called my husband to fill him in on what was happening. Then I was back to worrying about my mother and packing up for our trip. When the police showed up, they gave me musar for waiting so long to call them. I explained that I really had other important things on my mind and didn’t even realize for quite some time that we had been robbed. They were not impressed. They walked around the house taking fingerprints, an interesting educational experience for my kids without even having to leave home. My husband also had no head to deal with our robbery, as he was trying to wrap things up at the office so that he wouldn’t have work interruptions during our trip.
On our way up north the next day, we stopped off at the police station to have my son fingerprinted so that they would be able to distinguish between his fingerprints and those of the robber(s). And after that, as far as we were concerned, that was the end of our robbery. While it was true that we felt that our personal space had been invaded, and we were sorry about the loss of our belongings, living in the eye of the storm of my mother’s illness forced us to keep things in their proper perspective. When we came home from our camping trip, my mother was already sitting in her room waiting for us. She had planned to move in with us for a while, but she ended up staying with us until she passed away a few weeks later.
Our belongings have limited value and are replaceable. But our loved ones have infinite value and can never be replaced. But luckily even after they pass away, we can carry them with us in our hearts.
Suzie (nee Schapiro) Steinberg grew up in Kew Gardens Hills. She works as a social worker and lives with her husband and children in Ramat Beit Shemesh.