Friday, February 24, 2012

Stop Thief!!

Stop! Thief!

My mother, Maxine, died two years ago today. I posted this on my Facebook page and decided to write another “Maxine” story. The first thought that crossed my mind was when someone snatched Maxine’s purse….so that is the one that I will write.
Anyone who knew Maxine knew that she liked to shop.

  Whenever she would visit friends or relatives for a weekend, she would need a new outfit. She wasn’t like some people who buy a lot of clothes and never wear them. She just never had to wear the same outfit for weeks. She also liked to shop for fabric which she used in sewing more clothes…designing her own patterns or changing patterns she bought so that all of her clothing had the “Maxine Touch.”

One early evening my mother and her friend, Betty, drove to Franklin Park Mall. They often returned empty handed, but made sure to enjoy a treat while out….usually a hot fudge sundae. Betty stopped by my mother’s house as she was the one who usually drove. Maxine was not comfortable with her own driving skills (this is a whole different story….her driving escapades) so Betty wisely chose to be the driver. Mother had only gotten her driver’s license after my father died….she was 67 at the time. (This does not count the short time she had her license in Indiana when we lived in the country and I remember at the young age of five crouching on the floor of the back seat praying that we would make it home in one piece.)
Maxine and Betty

So, back to the story. Betty and Maxine were out for the evening. By the time they got back to Maxine’s house, it was dark. This was not unusual as they never felt unsafe, even though many women their age might want to be home before dark. They were both in their mid-seventies…Betty two years older than Maxine.

Betty drove up the short driveway; Maxine got out of the car and turned to walk up the steps to the house. With no sound to warn her, someone came from behind, grabbed her purse, ran down the drive, jumped into a waiting car and sped away. Mother screamed.

   “I never thought I could make such a scary, guttural sound come out of my mouth,” she would say later. “I’m sure I sounded like some wounded or trapped animal. I must have screamed out all of my fear because the next thing I remember is jumping back in the car, looking at Betty and saying, ‘STEP ON IT!’ as she was wheeling out the drive.”

“Let’s get ‘em!” Betty said as she kept her eyes on the tail lights in the distance….hands gripping the steering wheel, and leaving rubber as she put the car in drive and began the chase.

“Don’t get too close, or they will know we are following them!” Maxine said. “Oh no! They just turned. We can’t lose them!”

Betty turned, gunning the car so that she would not be stopped at the light that was just turning yellow. And it is here that I would love to embellish the story with a car chase through the streets of Toledo…but I can’t. It would not be right to change the story (although, I think Maxine might have made it a bit more exciting). What you read is what really happened.

They were approaching another light and the thieves were going to get stuck at the light too…still unaware that they were being followed by two “little old ladies.”

“What should I do, Maxine? Should I ram them…smash into their car?”

“Oh my, no! You can’t ruin your car. Sneak up slowly and let’s get their license tag number. You remember the letters and I will remember the numbers.”

And…this is what they did. The light turned green and they watched the thieves drive away. Betty returned to the scene of the crime, where mother’s neighbor, Harriett ran out her door to see what had happened. She had heard mother scream, but by the time she had opened her door, she only saw Betty’s car speeding down the road.

Mother began to shake as the realization of what had happened returned to her. Harriett and Betty walked her into the house where they called the police.

A policeman arrived, took down the information. He said that there had been other such purse snatching incidents…that the thieves would follow women as they left the mall and one would get out of the car, grab the purse while the other was in the getaway car. He gave instructions of what mother should do and expect. She was not to go pick up her purse or any of its contents if someone called to say it had been found. She was to tell the person that she could only pick it up at the police station…that the police would come to get it.

In the next month, two people found items from mother’s purse…her license and some credit card and billfold with no money in it. The police told mother that they traced the license tag of the car and found that it belonged to someone who said he had loaned his car to some friends that night. Mother thought that that would be the end of the investigation and was glad to at least have her license and credit cards.

Two months later, Mother got a call that said that the thief had been apprehended. There was nothing else that she needed to do, but they wanted to inform her. Soon after, she received a letter from the police department. I don’t know the exact wording, but this is part of what it said.

“Although we are grateful for the information you gave us to apprehend the two men who stole your purse, we do not encourage citizens to take such risks as you did.”

I know she kept the letter, and I will probably find it as I finish unpacking all of the boxes I still have stacked in the closet. She was quite proud that she and Betty probably saved someone else from getting robbed by these two men. Betty and Mother would often tell this story…laughing at the split second it took to decide whether they should ‘RAM ‘EM’ or not. I’m glad they chose to take down the license tag number…but I, too, am proud that my mother and Betty had the courage to act and be a part of catching those two purse snatchers.

This story is in memory of Maxine, who died two years ago today, and Betty who died earlier this year at the age of 94. Two incredible women with lots of spunk, energy and adventure…especially on that eventful night.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wild Animal in the House!!!

Wild Animal in the House!

It sounded like a wild cat!

My mother did not call me often while I was at school. (I was a guidance counselor in a middle school.) So, when I got a call from her and heard her frightened voice, my ears perked to attention.

“Jackie, there is something in the house,” her quivering voice whispered through the phone. “I don’t know what it is, but it is growling and hissing.”

“Are you sure it is not one of the cats?” I asked. I guess that was a silly question, but it filled in some time for me to figure out how to handle this call. I did not want her to panic any more, but I was concerned. I was twenty-five minutes away and could not be of much help.

“No, the cats are upstairs with me. Oh there is goes again!” I could even hear it…a low growl that sounded like a trapped, scared animal.

Before I write more, I need to describe the condo. It had an open design with open stairs going to the top floor. The top floor had two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Of course, there were doors to these rooms, but there was no door at the stairs. The middle level had the living room, dining room, kitchen, breakfast nook and half bath. The open stairs divided the living room and dining room. There was an enclosed patio outside of the breakfast nook and a deck overlooking a ravine outside the living room. The open stairs to the lower level also had no door and went directly to the family room where mother had her sewing area on one side and I had my computer on the other.
This room had a patio where we could walk out the sliding glass doors and enjoy the beauty of the ravine. There was also a stand-alone fireplace…one of those cone looking ones standing on a tiled area. That whole side of the room was a series of huge windows where we could each sit at our sewing machine or computer and view the trees and wild life. There was another bedroom and bathroom on this level and in the back was the laundry room and storage area. The condo was perfect for us…lots of space…lots of windows…we could look out and feel we were living in a forest.

Mother spent many hours in the family room creating new outfits with her Bernina sewing machine. She even got comfortable using the computer for email and sending instant messages to my sister and Maggie and Nathan.

“Oh no!…Aztec is going downstairs!!” These words got my brain back in action. Aztec was our male cat and I was sure he was headed down for a fight.

“Mother, call Kevin!” Kevin lived about ten minutes away, but he was always available when we needed a helping hand. That was still ten minutes where she was in danger.

“Jackie, I already called the Condo Association and they told me to call the Pest and Animal Control. I talked to a nice lady but had to hang up because the growling started again.”

“Mother, call Sally. She lives next door and she can come right over. Maybe you should go to her place until Kevin gets there.”

Just then there was a loud screeching that sent shivers up my spine. “Call, Sally and Kevin now and then call me right back.” I hung up the phone and wondered if I should drive home or wait. One of the science teachers, Andy, happened to come to my office and I told him about the wild animal. He lived out in the country and knew a lot about wildlife so I asked him if he had any ideas of what it could be.

“We see raccoons, squirrels, deer, feral cats, groundhogs, and foxes that come up from the ravine…but we have never had any attempt to get into the house. Maybe Mother did not close the door completely. She often sweeps the patio in the morning…but still, why would a wild animal come inside!”

The phone rang again. It was Mother.

“Sally is on her way and so is Kevin. It’s kind of quiet now.” Of course, the minute she said that, another hissing and growling sound came from the basement. I had Andy listen. His face looked as puzzled as I felt.

“Here comes Aztec running up the stairs with his tail all puffed up!” I felt so sorry for Mother. Her voice was shaking…so unlike her. “Sally’s here! She has a broom! I’m going to hang up now and call you back later.

So there we were, Andy and me, looking at each other wondering what to do.

“Jackie, it could be an opossum. I just haven’t heard a raccoon sound like that. Do you want me to get a net and go over there? I could find someone to cover my class.”

“Thanks, Andy. Kevin is going to be there too…so let’s wait. I’m sure Sally will get mother out of the house. I’m just concerned about the cats…”

Andy went back to his classroom and I stayed in my office staring at the phone. I was getting ready to leave for home when the phone rang. It was Mother.

“It’s okay, Jackie,” she said light heartedly. In fact she was chuckling making it difficult to understand what she was saying. Finally, in her own words:

“When Sally got here the growling from the family room was loud and scared her too. She decided to wait until Kevin got there so that they could work as a team. Kevin got here and was carrying a shovel. He looked so nice in his suit and tie. We waited for the animal to growl again, but this time it screeched. I could tell that Kevin was surprised and that he had probably thought I was exaggerating…but now he knew. He said he would head down the stairs first and Sally could follow if she wanted to. He would try to get to the door and open it so that the animal could run out.

  “HISS GRRROWL” Oh the poor trapped animal…I just wanted it out of the house. Anyway, Kevin slowly descended the stairs…one step and then rest…one more step…rest again…trying to look into the family room without getting attacked…all the time holding the shovel for protection. Sally was close behind him with broom in hand. It was like a choreographed scene…they moved together in time…one-step rest…one-step rest. I could not just stand and watch them so I joined….but carried nothing for protection. I was gripping the handrail tightly as I watched Kevin get to the bottom step and move toward the sounds.

  It must be in the fireplace. Remember, Geoff opened it last time he was here and there was a dead bird? But no…the fireplace was empty of wild animals. “SCREECH!!!!” I feared the animal was about to attack Kevin, but instead he started to laugh.

 ‘Come here, Maxine,’ he said to me. I went down and saw the cutest little Siamese cat on the computer monitor jumping around and chasing a mouse. It was the screen saver that Jackie had gotten the night before. “GROWL” again came…but this time it was from the speakers. But why would this screen saver sound like a wild animal!

  Kevin solved that. “Maxine, you have the volume at full blast. When I turn it down, it sounds like a normal cat.” I explained to him that I always turn up the volume when I am not in the room so that I can hear if someone sends me an instant message. We all just sat down and laughed as we snacked on some banana bread and coffee. It was at that time that the Animal Control people called me to tell me that they were sending a group to capture the animal. They were quite concerned because I had hung up and when they tried to call back, the phone was always busy. The woman sounded quite relieved when I answered but I have to admit, I felt a little foolish telling her to call back the cavalry…that the wild animal was just the computer.”

So, that is the story of the wild animal. Oh how I wish my Uncle Frank were still alive so that he could draw a comic of Kevin, Sally and Mother creeping down the stairs…one holding a shovel, another holding a broom and Mother bringing up the rear with a look of fright on her face. He would have the computer monitor out of their sight with a growling sound coming from it. I can at least have the picture in my mind even though I don’t have the talent to draw it.