Teaching Thievery

On Saturday my wife and I went to several estate sales.
The last was at a small, unassuming house in a poorer part
of town. As we drove up, I said, “This one surely fails
to excite me. Shall I drive on?” Linda, bless her heart,
always the optimist, replied, “We’re here. Let’s look inside.”

Imagine our amazement as we entered, only to find
two rooms laden, a treasure trove of exquisite objects,
all of highest quality, from around the world. “Mind
if I ask whose estate this is, if not too personal a subject?”
The lady in charge turned to me, eyes sparkling, smile wide.

“This all belonged to my mother. She died recently at age 95.
She lived humbly for all her life in this poor neighborhood,
but she inhabited the world. On travel she seemed to thrive,
expensive souvenirs returning from every land. She would
buy Waterford crystal in Dublin, Murano glass in Rome, so on.”

“Well, I hope you take checks!” Linda said with a knowing smile.
As the lady was pointing out items and giving us their history,
two girls, about nine and eleven years old, entered after awhile.
The older girl came back where we were, began non-stop inquiry.
“What’s this thing? Where is it from? Can I use your telephone?”

All the while, the younger child remained up front, near a table
covered with jewelry. Quickly, she left...followed by the older.
They jumped into an old, junk car which drove away as fast as able.
When we went to pay for our newfound treasures, “Well, bolder
than brass, those young kids just stole my mother’s onyx brooch!”

Her eyes filled with tears, she continued, “ I knew I recognized
that car. Their mother was in earlier and had priced that brooch.
It was from the 1940s, of good quality, and I was totally surprised
by how little she wanted to pay. She took my refusal as a reproach,
I’m afraid, and left in a huff. Now, she had her daughters steal it!”

“Was it very valuable? Or maybe a special favorite of your mother?”
Linda asked, as she handed the lady a tissue to collect her tears.
“Oh, I’m not crying over loss of the pin. For it can truly be said
I’ll never miss it among all these things. No, it is for another
reason I cry. About those dear children’s futures I have grave fears,
and any mother who turns her children into thieves must be all
shriveled up inside, with her heart and soul quite, quite dead...”

Harry Edward Gilleland      06.23.03