What They Left Behind

photo 1photo 2What They Left Behind

In the city, I attempt to adhere to many maxims set forth by my parents when I was younger: Look both ways before crossing the street. Don’t leave your valuables out in plain sight. Lock the doors to your house and car. Be careful around strangers.

But, like any human, I sometimes bypass those maxims. My son and husband, walking with me this summer were convinced I would get run over by cars, buses, bikes. I tell them, “I am so in tune with the pulse of the city, I am aware of light changes and cars shifting directions, and therefore don’t always need to stop when walking, only slow down.” They nod and look both ways for me.

But, I have learned it’s not always in my best interests to ignore my parents’ advice.

My Toyota stays parked outside. One of my learnings after our move, was to not leave items in plain sight and – lock your car door. The police will tell you this. The neighbors will tell you this. My husband will tell you this and I will tell my kids.

But because I am the toter of all things house-related, my car is oftentimes stuffed. In particular, when we were moving, I moved boxes in, then moved them out, and left them in the car overnight. So, was not always convenient or efficient to empty out my car.

I also stock up on items for my mother’s care and leave packs of Gatorade, packages of Depends, People magazines and cartons of air fresheners in the car for the next day’s visit. It seems silly to remove them from the car, carry them inside, then have to tote them back out. So, I keep them in the car.

The remainder of belongings in my car range from sunscreen and hair spritz, to Cheetos and salted almonds. I keep pens and paper, a bookmark from Aunt Alice’s celebration of life, packages of gum, an empty sunglass case, a few pennies, umbrellas, snow scrapers, plastic bags to cover seats when I am transporting larger, dirtier items. My family jokes, when the end of the world comes, they want to be in Annette’s car.

Under the hatch, I keep a treasured item that has stayed with me for 25 years. My Cleveland Browns blanket. The blanket was purchased at Kmart, following the weekend my brother got married. Devin and I were making our way to the Cleveland stadium for a Browns game and we, being from Cincinnati, realized we didn’t have the right clothing to compensate for the cold. We stopped at a Kmart and found the blanket.

The blanket has moved to Oregon, Seattle. The blanket has been my trusty friend when I have been stranded on the side of the road. The blanket is like a burrito, when I wrap my mother in it, during cold days, and transport her to my home.

If ever there was security in a piece of fabric, that blanket is it. Not because of what it says, but what is represents – home, travel, adversity, overcoming, mother and warmth.

It has come as no surprise, on three occasions over eight months, I have left my car unlocked. Usually, it is because I am running in, or walking out. Or my hands are full, or my mind is brimming.

The first occasion occurred when I felt an odd presence of some one or thing in the car. I was backing out of my parking space, planning to visit my mom. I had eaten lunch so, I reached in for Cheetos – not hot. And the bag had vanished.

I didn’t recall finishing the bag the last time. But, my memory too could be slipping a bit. Then, I looked in the console, and items there had been turned upside down. I got a sinking feeling my car had been visited overnight. A feeling confirmed, when I peered into the backseat to check on the stockpile for my mom. The Depends were there. The Gatorade was gone.

My car has a keyless entry, and the fob stays in my purse most days. I don’t have to reach for a key to unlock the car, so when I place my fingers on the handle, I never really know if it is locked or unlocked.

Someone in the neighborhood told me otherwise that morning.

I jumped out of car, and looked around, as if the perpetrator would still be there, or Candid Camera was filming some thirty years later. Then, I walked to the back of the car, and opened the hatch, fearful of what I might, or might not, find.

“Oh, thank God,” I said aloud, to the football gods. No one was sleeping in the back. And, my Browns blanket rested in peace.

I later told my husband about my ordeal for the morning.

Assuming the perpetrator might have been looking for warmth and sustenance, after all, they took the Cheetos, I said, “I still can’t believe they didn’t take the blanket.”

“Really? You’re surprised? This is Cincinnati, even the criminals have standards.”

How could I respond to that?

I stopped leaving Mom’s Gatorade in the car, but on two other occasions, a breaking still occured. On the second occasion, I opened up the front passenger side door, to find my can of almonds emptied out. But, alas, the Browns blanket was still there, shining bright orange.

And just yesterday, the perpetrator was kind enough to leave all the items from my console on the front seat, in a show of bravado, I suppose. To let me know, someone had been there.

Gradually, I am learning my lesson. This act has saved me from my addiction to Cheetos. I am more efficient with and conscious of what I carry into and out of my car, adhering to the “pack it in, pack it out” adage for hikers. I will only leave behind almonds, if they are spiced with wasabi and soy. And if that person needs the Depends, then so be it. I will caution, though, they are size small.

But that person better not, I repeat, better not take my Cleveland Browns blanket.  After all, the only maxim that really applies is one trespasser’s trash is another woman’s treasure.



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