Officer Troggman was beetling his brow and gripping his standard police-issue black ballpoint in a giant hand. The official burglary report form -- that phantasm of the bureaucratic imagination designed to keep us all from despair -- was there in his clipboard to be gotten through.

The going in this case, however, was far from easy. I was distraught, alternately moaning and falling silent. "They took," I said shakily for the second time, "the bonbon spoon."

Silence. Troggman wiped sweat from his chin. The living room, closed for a week and with windows swollen shut, felt like a crypt.

He persevered. "I'm just not getting this, ma'am. A what spoon? Is it real valuable?"

I tried to pull myself together. "It's a small, fancy silver spoon, you know, all filigree-work . . . cut out . . . sort of the shape of a sugar shell, for serving mints and nuts and small candies. It was a wedding present." Tears welled.

"Yeah. Okay. A fancy silver spoon, I got it. How much?"

"Well, I don't know. Maybe $20 or $30. I've never really priced one."

We went on to the other items, Troggman and I hammering away at filling out the list. We listed everything I could tell -- in those first few minutes of confronting a ravaged house -- was missing.

But in my heart, only the bonbon spoon was gone. Everything else, even the big, expensive items, could be re-bought with money. But the bonbon spoon was irretrievably lost, gone from the delicate shadow-space where it lay wrapped around with the soft, gray-felt silver cloth.

It was gone and with it dreams of a happier way of life, of gentility, security. I felt a great emptiness.

Finally the good Troggman was done with his listing and pricing. He snapped his official square black leather attache' case shut and left his card. It lay flat as despair.

I sat in the wicker rocker, rocking. I remembered back 19 years when the spoon and I first met. I was 20, and it was my third bridal shower in as many days. At this particular event, three Wichita, Kans., doctors' wives were honoring not so much me as my redoubtable mother-in-law-to-be. They had brought out their best crystal and candelabra, their finest linen. Caterers had spent an intense afternoon with radishes and endive. Sherbert floated exhausted in bowls of gingerale. No effort had been spared.

At the pinnacle of the evening, I was the cynosure of all eyes as I pulled the correct white ribbon off a chaste white box, lifted the lid and found this little spoon. "It's cute," I said. "I love it. What a nice little . . ."

"Bonbon spoon," my future mother-in-law mouthed through a tight, sweet New Orleans smile.

"Ah yes," I said. "What a sweet little bonbon spoon."

It was love at first sight. I loved it like a savage with a first looking glass. From that moment it was my talisman. I, too, would become a grand lady. (Such was my ambition in those days.)

Not knowing what the bonbon spoon was and being trapped in the icy stares of all those seasoned cognoscenti later became one of my favorite funny stories about myself . . . but only when some years had passed and I knew more about the folly of pretensions.

I told the bonbon spoon story with the moral, I think, that like everyone else, I'd always had a lot to learn. It was an easier story to tell, however, while the bonbon spoon was lying there, wonderful, impractical, lacy and safe in the drawer.

Now it's gone. Someone took it who probably didn't know what it was either. Someone who can't possibly know what it meant to me or my teen-age son -- that it was a small votive piece on our family altar to civility