Not-Crazy-Renee (my neighbor, who I introduced to you Monday) has had an intense holiday season.
For one, she’s post-partum.
No one should have to be post-partum over the holidays – I should know, as Noah was born on December 19.
(Happy birthday, son. You might get a sweet and touching birthday blog post…at some point.)
I remember distinctly the agony I endured when I came home from the hospital on December 23, suffering greatly from the side effects of having been on pain medication and Zofran for four days. GREATLY. I remember crying those nonsensical post-partum tears and attempting to sit up in a dignified manner so as to have our family over for dinner the very next day.
Holiday Post-Partumness is not for wusses.
Good thing women aren’t wusses.
So. Back to Not-Crazy-Renee. She’s not quite as freshly post-partum as I was that fateful year of 2010, but this is no contest. She’s still very post-partum, and with two additional small children at home to boot. Good thing she’s no wuss.
But. A few weeks ago on a Wednesday, Renee had a package that showed it was delivered early in the morning, and a couple of hours later when she went to retrieve it, it wasn’t there.
This was bad news. No good at all. Our neighborhood had recently suffered from its first set of robberies in remembered history, and people were on edge – Not-Crazy-Renee was no exception.
She waited three days before freaking out, hoping she would find it or it would turn up somehow, but it did not.
For some reason, the next Sunday morning was her snapping point.
She texted me while I was on the way to church and informed me that we most definitely had a Neighborhood Package Thief and that I better keep an eye on my deliveries. Of course I had a large package coming that very day (who does Amazon pay off at the USPS to have Sunday delivery? It’s a mystery), and I knew I wouldn’t be home for hours.
I texted my across-the-street neighbor to spread the news of the package thief and ask her to keep an eye out for my incoming box.
Then I tried to talk reason into Not-Crazy-Renee. Because, to be honest, although I was taking the cautious road with my own stuff, I didn’t really believe there was a thief.
“Surely it was just delivered to the wrong address and the neighbor that got it hasn’t brought it to you yet. This happens all the time in our neighborhood!”
But no. She was convinced. It was definitely a criminal element at work to destroy her Christmas Cheer.
My other neighbor texted me back likewise, saying she had just gotten a package belonging to someone else and had taken a couple days getting it to them.
I tried again to offer assurances.
“See? It just happened this week!! The post office is busy. They’re not paying attention. I’m sure your package is out there. It will come around.”
This did not perk her up one bit.
In fact, her texts to me throughout the day became more filled with rage and dismay that some no-good varmint would just flat-out SWIPE her kid’s bike helmet and her infant child’s much-needed batch of pacifiers.
She hoped they were highly disappointed with their haul.
She began investigating installing video surveillance system, and most likely thoroughly considered the possibility of installing booby traps that Indiana Jones himself couldn’t outwit.
A few days later, I had my Eye Duct Cauterization scheduled, and Renee had kindly agreed to keep my kids (or let them entertain her kids – whatev.)
When I arrived to dump my kids upon her, I noticed a sign taped to the basement door. Then, on the front door, a matching sign.
Something about the commanding tone of the sign coupled with the cheery holiday border said “I’m a delightful individual!! And I will RIP YOUR FREAKING HEAD OFF if you take my kid’s Christmas crap.”
It had the aroma of slightly hysterical neurosis.
And I adored it.
That is, until Ali read it. And gasped. And asked for all the details about this neighborhood package thief. This new knowledge, along with her already collected understanding of the neighborhood robberies, made for a very jumpy almost-nine-year-old, and also a contagious one.
For the next week and a half, every time Ali or Noah heard the UPS man, they ran out onto the porch, grabbed the package, looked over their shoulder while their tiny hearts beat out of their tiny chests, ran back inside, remembered to lock the door for the first times in their lives, and yelled to me, “I beat the package thief! I got your box before he did!!”
Noah took it a bit further and wouldn’t go in the yard alone even for five seconds while I was walking toward the door to join him, all while he would state flatly, “I’ll just stay inside. There’s a package thief out there somewhere.”
After enduring ten days of my children’s constant adrenaline-charged evasion of The Bad Guy, I teased Not-Crazy-Renee about it.
I was really just meaning to shame her for sport and pleasure, not shame her into taking her signs down.
But take her signs down she did.
However, my shaming proved me the best friend she’d ever had.
Because the VERY NEXT MORNING, which happened to be Day 15 of The Package Thief Saga, Not-Crazy-Renee heard a knock on her door.
She opened it to find a young Mom and her kids, standing on her doorstep, with an Amazon box in hand, looking rather bashful.
She lived one block up, you see – the same house number but a different street, and she, like the rest of us, had been getting voluminous stacks of Amazon boxes delivered to her doorstep, and she hadn’t been exactly inspected each one before she threw it in her “To-Wrap” pile, so when she got around to wrapping her presents and opened the box, she was quite confused as she didn’t remember ordering a bike helmet and pacifiers.
She checked the label and realized it wasn’t her package.
“I have no idea how many days I’ve had it – probably several,” she apologized.
Fifteen days, but who’s counting.
Before the recalcitrant neighbor left, she and Renee had realized they had kids the same age and absolutely must schedule a playdate soon. Extrovert-Not-Crazy-Renee was thrilled at the prospect of a new friend.
It was lovely. Just lovely. A serendipitous meeting indeed.
But just think. If that poor young, harried mother had walked up to the door, already weighed down with the guilt of the package she’d held so long, and had seen this slightly-psychotic sign on the door,
Do you think they’d have a playdate scheduled?
No, no they would not.
Just call me The Neighborhood Fixer.
Epilogue: My children, along with all of us, are thrilled and relieved with the news that The Package Thief never actually existed. But old habits are hard to break – they’re still sprinting outside to grab any and all boxes before a Criminal Element beats them to it.