IT IS BETTER, if you can arrange it, not to be robbed at Christmas, especially by candlelight, as I was.
For one thing, I have found out, the detective force is at half strength, which means you can't talk about it with experts right away.
For another thing, it complicates the standard conversation for the week between Christmas and New Years. I can say a heartfelt "yes" when queried on the niceness of my Christmas, and then it's a question of whether I go on and say, "except for being burgled," which has a chilling effect.
I do not know whether my night visitors came on the 25th or on one of the other two days I was out of town celebrating "the gracious and hallowed season." The only thing I know for sure is that the people who called during my absence used my large wooden candlestick with the thick candle to light their labors. There is wax all over the place, very hard to get out. My thumbnail is worn to the quick.
The thing about being robbed -- as I say, I've been through it before -- is that you want to make a pattern. I called my police station the day after, to find out if I had been singled out or was part of a crime wave. The lieutenant told me that as a matter of fact, the criminal statistics in my neighborhood had fallen sharply. I felt apologetic about spoiling his average. I talked to another officer -- I believe in Stolen Objects Recovery -- who said that there had been a rash of holiday break-ins around town. He said he would send around a "print man" if staff shortages permitted.
As of this writing, the print man hasn't come, and I've been making my thieves' profile on my own. I say there were two: the flashlight in the front hall was gone, and I can't see how one person could hold a flashlight and a candle and go through my belongings all at the same time.
They left one clue, a bright blue knitted stocking cap. On late-night TV, thieves always wear black. Was one of them a teen- ager?
On the other hand, why would a teen-ager take dental-floss threaders? They're awfully hard to get, I know, but at that age, would you need them?
They may be health-nuts, or at least fresh- air fiends. They rammed open the bedroom window. The next day, two workmen couldn't close it. And why the kitchen? Burgling must be hot work. They couldn't have thought of getting the big TV out any window. They took a smaller one from the other room, and obviously they had every intention of taking two. They had it on the floor, the cord was neatly wrapped around the back -- and there it sat, surrounded by the tiny little drawers they had torn out of the musical jewel box that held a lot of gaudy gimcracks from Italy.
Why didn't they go out the way they came in? The nice, noncommital young woman officer who came in answer to my call last Sunday night thinks they came through the front door. We couldn't figure out why they didn't grab the laundry money which was in plain view on a shelf. Don't even thieves want to deal in cash anymore?
The jewel box plays "The Blue Danube" when you open the bottom drawer. Did the thieves enjoy that? Were they a couple? Did they take a turn by candlelight, as the wax dripped into the rug? I wonder as I scrape.
They spurned my domestic junk jewelry. They passed up my good gold earrings; the box was flung on the bed. I am not, however, ready to say they were not discriminating. They grabbed Great Aunt Lizzie's garnet necklace.
So they were old/young, seasoned/impressionable. Perhaps a father-son team? Or, lest I be accused of sexism, a mother-daughter duo?
In my diligent scour-and-search I have turned up another irony. They took a diamond-tipped pen, given me by its inventor, and my relative, Douglas Asaff. It is for marking valuables so that if they are recovered after being stolen, they can be identified. It is supposed to deter crime. Maybe my criminals are even now inscribing their inititals on their haul?
People talk to me these days in sentences that begin, "At least . . . "
"At least," says Liz, ever practical, "they didn't set fire to the place." "At least," says her sister Georgia, "they didn't slash the sofa cushions." "At least," says my neighbor Marie, "you weren't there."
I am grateful for all of the above, especially not being there. That makes me Class 2 -- Class l is for people who receive their robbers in person.
I get advice. A burglar alarm -- not suggested by people who know me well; I can barely tune in a radio. A Doberman -- forbidden in my condo. A pistol -- I am for gun-control. A timer on the lights -- obviously this would solve the wax problem.
At least, my house was clean for the New Year.