I have a personal Grinch. I have never met him, but I know he is out there; and he knows I’m out there as well. We are connected, we share a history. And it is not a history I would have chosen for myself… obviously.
No one wants to be a Who
When my son (my first born) was only a month old, we stayed at my parents’ house for Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day we raced home, looking forward to sharing our first Christmas as parents of a perfect and beautiful baby.
I first realized that something was wrong when I pulled into the driveway. Something was off. The air around me was different. A sickening feeling suddenly tightened my stomach. Once I was out of the car, I quickly surmised the awful truth of the situation. I told my wife to stay in the car with the baby and the dog.
I asked her to call 9-1-1.
Our house was broken into on Christmas Eve and our first Christmas as parents was forever ruined.
I have always love Dr. Seuss. Before my son was even born his bookshelf was filled with the complete library of good Mr. Geisel’s work. And on a side note, few can read Green Eggs and Ham as entertaining as me.
Seriously, I rock that book.
A few days ago, laying next to my two kids on my daughter’s bed, I began to read the classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas. This was not the first time I have read the book to them since the robbery so long ago. The book has always been part of my holiday; heck, all of the songs from the TV special are on my ipod! But this time something changed.
Seeing the Grinch strip the Whos’ houses bare in the illustrations really effected me. It was almost too much and I could hear it in my breaking voice as I turned every page in the book… When I was done, my daughter looked at me and asked why I had tears in my eyes.
I had no answer to give, I couldn’t say what was in my heart. All I could do was weakly smile… and then when I left the room, I put the book on the top shelf… the one none of my kids can reach yet.
In the Grinch story, he enters via the chimney. My Grinch first tried to jimmy open the back door but was unsuccessful (but did enough damage that it needed to be replaced). He then took a brick to the door facing the deck. I can still see the chip in the wall frame where the brick hit on the other side of the room. That had to have been quite a throw!
The Grinch in the book then methodically began taking everything away, piece by piece. My Grinch began by knocking down the Christmas tree and then focused on electronics, jewelry, and presents.
In the book, everything is returned at the end in a perfect message around the true message of love that is Christmas. In my reality, things stayed lost, things stayed broken… including me.
When I told my wife my reaction to the book, she didn’t seem surprised. Yes, it is over five years from that awful morning, but it has haunted every Christmas we have had since then. An example of this is that we would never consider again leaving the house during the holiday. And even if we did leave for a few hours, we would never take our dog away from the house.
After the robbery, the dog has changed from a pet to an alarm for me.
The first few years after the robbery, I used to sleep on the couch on Christmas Eve. While I do sleep on my bed now, I don’t sleep very well. No, it is not a Silent Night for me. I jump at every noise and when my dog randomly barks at 3 AM, I want to know at what.
“Is that him? Is the Grinch back?”
Here is the thing I never want to consider:
If we were home that fateful night, would it have changed things? Our Grinch was so driven that he used a single brick to smash a glass. Didn’t he think that would get the attention of the neighbors? Didn’t he worry about that?
Was he armed?
Would he have run from a dog bark and my shout or would he have stood his ground? Turning my family into one of the horrific sad stories you quickly scroll past on the Huffington Post. (Our robbery didn’t even make the local papers or news.)
The Grinch in the book didn’t care about the Whos being home. He even had a diabolical conversation with little Cindy-Lou Who (the same age as my daughter now). The conversation I would have had with my Grinch would never have been so nice. Honestly, the idea of being there that night terrifies and excites me.
In the book, the Whos collected in their town center and sang a song for Christmas. Happy in the bless of just celebrating the special day. That was their morning.
My morning was watching cops with guns drawn enter my house, shouting to each other as they searched every room. I listened as I stood outside, almost checking off in my mind each hiding place, each closet, each room right along with the cops’ shouts.
My neighbors were not singing that day, but gawking in a way. Sharing stories I didn’t want to hear of other ruined holidays. I probably would have said something unfortunate with colorful language, but the cops called to me. Then I was given a tour of my own home (which strangely and surreally reminded me of the first time we toured the house before buying it), as the cop wrote down everything I said that was missing.
Of course, the greatest thing missing was a sense of security and peace people want in a home, but that is not something the cops or insurance companies can return.
In the classic, Dr. Seuss story the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes that day, realizing the true meaning of the holiday. He then returns the presents. My Grinch kept all of the presents, and most were unmistakably for a new and very loved baby.
I used to love the look of peace on the Grinch’s face in the holiday cartoon special as he carves the roast beast in the finale. He is a friend at the end, mine remains with me as well but is a specter, something more like the ghosts from another holiday story. And for me, this holiday spook doesn’t disappear, but joins us each year.
Oh, and here is a secret, every year I look for my Grinch.
Yes, every year when I am in crowds or at the mall… I wonder. Of course, I have no idea what he looks like (the cops never caught him), but he probably knows what I look like from the pictures on my wall and on my shelves and on my stolen computer. How could he not? So I look and look and wait to see if someone reacts to my visage.
I have yet to have that moment… but each year I look for it. I hate that I do, but I do.
See, my Grinch took more than a classic children story from me or a present. He took a myth I bought into. The overpowering force of human kindness that comes each December the 25th.
The Grinch in the book is a mean one, yes he is. Mine is a bastard.
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