The coffee maker started at its set 5 a.m. time and the fresh brewed smell wafted to my nose, waking me, as it had for the last 20 years. I managed to stumble out of bed, took a quick
shower, dressed, and headed downstairs for coffee and a muffin. I placed cereals on the counter and began boiling some eggs before setting down. Martin came down after about ˝ an hour, followed closely by my husband.
“Hey, the Martin tells me you caught the CTA Pick Pocket. And I thought you only showed your “Wonder Women” stunts when we were alone. Am I supposed to be jealous now?” Jeff wrapped his arms around me from behind and growled menacingly into my ear. “Um, I love that lavender scent on your skin. Makes me want to take the day off and play hooky with you at a beach cabin somewhere.”
“Jeff, you’re embarrassing. Martin’s dying over there.” Sure enough, Martin had grabbed his throat and falling from the chair, did an impressive gag.
I got up, drained the water from the eggs and placed them in a serving dish, passing it on to Jeff who now had possession of The Chicago Tribune.
“Yep, you’re right son. It’s all over the front page; CTA PURSE SNATCHER CAPTURED DURING AN ATTEMPTED ROBBERY. In a statement from CTA engineer, Marcus Hernandez, a regular rider barreled over the would be attacker when she noticed her purse slipping from her shoulder. Police and CTA security have been trying to apprehend 20 year old Kyle Oaning for 7 months with no leads. He was never caught in the act until last night. More information will be forthcoming tomorrow with a statement from Heather Becker, who is the Owner and Realtor of 21st Century Realty on Wacker Drive.
This week we start a series on “Does it Really Matter if Regular Citizens Step up When Our City Protectors Don’t? Look for it in tomorrows’ installment. Wednesday, How Effective Are the Police? Thursday: Citizens Who Have Taken Action Against The Those who Break the Laws? Friday: What Can We Do? Remain Silent? Saturday: Chicago’s Current 25 Most Wanted and What We Can Do.
Sunday: Have You Thanked Someone Today? Send us your stories of paid public protectors or citizens who have made a difference in your life.”
“Wow hon, you sure made a name for yourself! This should drum up some business. Watch people start lining up at your office to catch a glimpse of the infamous woman who caught the elusive purse snatcher!”
“Funny Jeff, I am going to work from my office here today. That way, after I get all my calls and e-mails out of the way, I can lie down for a long nap. I’ve only gotten a couple hours of sleep because of this whole thing.”
“You know that those newsmen are pretty pesky, I bet you won’t get much rest.
“Got that one figured out. I’ll set up an e-mail for them to contact me through. I’ll let Jim and Cora Lee at the office know and they’ll forward them. That way I only get bugged by the real guys and not some psycho. I’ll write up a quick response of the whole incident from my perspective and send it out. Ta-Da, it is done, no muss, no fuss.”
“Brother Mom, why do you have to be so paranoid?” Now Martin was ready to have his say. “You work with weird people every day, you said so yourself. What is the harm in talking to a few reporters? It would be kind of nice to have a famous mom on the late news.”
“Please let me deal with one thing at a time okay? I am exhausted. Dealing with spoiled rich men and their Barbie doll wives, then a thief is plenty for one day. I deserve some R & R, albeit, with some work. At least I won’t have to deal with reporters. Not today. If they want a statement they’ll have to do it my way. It was a nerve wracking experience, one I hope to never have to deal with again. The idea of retiring early and leaving this life for the slow-pace of a hobby farm somewhere seems even more inviting than ever.”
As usual, Jeff changed the subject, planted a kiss and headed to work. Martin was on time to the bus for a change. In my gray sweatpants, I went for a morning jog with my friend, Stephanie, who had lived next door as long as Jeff and I had.
“Well, if it isn’t the famous purse snatcher catcher!” Stephanie’s bright, winsome voice melted away my slumping form.
“Oh please! You would have done the same thing if the brute had taken your purse. Our whole lives are in them.” At that, we both of us almost lost our balance jogging and had to stop, catching our knees, laughing uncontrollably.
I was relieved when we were both resumed our jog in contemplative silence. Afterward,
we walked to the nearby Starbucks and ordered the usual. It was funny how we had this morning routine for the last 20 years. Stephanie and I shared our lives, our pregnancies, parent/teacher conflicts and responsibilities. She was my rock.
For that length of time, strangely, she never failed to invite me to her church or some Bible study. Of course, I always had a valid excuse not to join her. It was usually an open house, or a weekend trip with Jeff and Martin to some Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast in the country.
“Stephanie, do you ever dream of living some other life? I mean, are you ever unhappy
with the same mundane things?” I asked watching the twirling of my fat-free vanilla cappuccino at the bottom of my cup.
“Oh dear, why on earth would I? I’m married to the most beautiful zookeeper in Chicago, have four gorgeous boys, and terrific friends. Who could ask for more"
“I just don’t like the busy pace of Chicago anymore. When I was a girl, I would spend every summer with my grandfather and Uncle in a small town in Indiana. It had a grand time! I still recall the sweet, fresh smell of newborn pigs, cats and dogs. Watching Grandpa milk his Jersey cow and then making the butter, the cheeses, and my favorite Cheese Bread is nothing I can ever forget. Now I find myself yearning for that slow, simple life. Jeff doesn’t understand, nor Martin. They have never experienced it.”
Visiting Dairy Farms in Wisconsin when we have taken those rare weekends away, they just turn up their noses at the manure, hay, and sweaty smells that surround them. I would love to buy five 5-10 acres with a sturdy, old barn and house. I dream of having a couple of every farm animal and a great big garden. I want to stop working and just be a wife or something…”
“Whoa, Jeanette, I'm losing you! I think the difference is, I rely on God to lead me in life. That’s why I have no problem with where He has me right now. You, though rely on yourself. Just as I can’t imagine not depending on God, you can imagine having a different life. Who knows maybe there is a power above guiding these dreams.”
“How do I know if it is reality or an over-active imagination?”
“Believe me, when God works, the pieces fall into place. You'll know it when it happens and then it will be so clear.”
“I hope you are right. Because right now, Jeff and Martin are not on board with the idea at all.”
We left the coffee shop and headed to our perspective homes, Stephanie to prepare some delicious dinner for four growing boys and husband, me to sit down in my office and crank out some phone calls, check e-mails, and contact Cora Lee and Jim at the office. Writing my press release I sent it to Cora Lee, got some lunch with a cup of coffee.
It was time for a nap. My feet dragged, pulling me up cream colored plushy carpeted stairs. The morning had proved busy with the owners of the Navy Pier Property posting their counter-offer and me arranging for Mr. Kennedy to come to the downtown office the next morning to sign another counter off that. The press was not too happy with having only an e-mail and paper clipped portrait of me to work with. My wonderful staff fended them off though, with the promise of an 11 o’clock interview with WGN the next morning. Of course, there was something I hadn’t planned on, the lawyers. Everyone with a degree it seemed wanted me to sue the purse snatcher for damages and personal stress. Everyone was a money hungry brute. At least the man wasn’t going to be lifting purses for a while. I would be happy to just be done with it. A deep sleep engulfed my exhausted body as soon as my head hit the pillow.
The next morning, it was Jeff who answered the alarm clock. I didn’t even hear it. He prepared breakfast and then gently woke me. “Rise and shine darling, my famous little woman. I don’t think you’ll be ready for the surprise waiting out the window.”
Perplexed, I dragged myself to the window. A crowd of reporters were gathered in our front yard! Newsmen and cameramen were huddled, ready to pounce. “Now, how are we going to get out of this?”
Jeff took it in stride. “We’ll simply back out of the garage together and try to lose them. I’ll take Martin to school and apprise them of the situation. They won’t let him out of the place before I get there. I have to leave the office early because of that yearly physical you always set up for me. Healthy as an ox though, I want you to know. It’s just a waste of time and an excuse for insurance cost to rise. So to the shower with you! Freshen up my lovely, breakfast is getting cold.”
“You made me breakfast. You’re such a darling when I need you!”
We ate in silence and then got into our cars. The moment we backed out, the crowd of reporters swarmed our vehicles. Jeff beeped his horn and lowered a window just long enough to say, “No comments at this time.”
We backed out and went where we were needed for the day, only losing the news vans on Interstate 290 where traffic was at a decent flow for a change.
I called Stephanie, realizing I’d forgot all about our morning jog. “Hi Steph, I’m so sorry. Everything was a mess when Jeff woke me up this morning.”
“Darling friend, I didn’t even go any further than my door when I saw that crowd this morning. You poor darling! I completely understand. You just head to your office. Give this the rest of the week to settle down. I’ll be praying for you.”
We said our good-bye’s as I pulled into the parking garage near my office. Noticing a few
more vehicles around than usual, I put on my shades, took a deep breath, and called Cora Lee to check if the office was quite or a massive invasion. No surprise, newsmen. Security had been called and most were told to leave the premises before I arrived. Walking into my office, I first caught sight of Mr. Kennedy. He looked a little irritated. There were at least 5 reporters being closely scrutinized by security. Upon seeing me, they tried to rush toward me, all asking questions at once. Security kept them back and I held my hand up for silence. When the noise level had simmered to a low mumble, I made my statement.
“Please, I have work to do. You are all aware of my experience. I sent my e-mailed statement. If that is not satisfactory, I will be interview by WGN later, so just borrow from that.
You have my permission. No,’ security, please see them out.”
They left under protest, and then the office was finally quiet. Only the clicking of an answering machine interrupted the silence.
“Well Mr. Kennedy, have you decided on a counter- offer?” I sat down at my desk resting my chin on my hands.
“Look at who’s the celebrity now? I’m surprised you can remain so calm. Down to business, as you wish.”
Mr. Kennedy signed the necessary paperwork and I assured him that he’d be notified as soon as I heard a response.
The day passed with the usual offers, interests’ calls, and paperwork. I called it a day at about 4 o'clock, checking my e-mails one more time. The owners of the condominium accepted the last bid. I called Mr. Kennedy to let him know they got the place and gave him closing details.
Locking up, I got into my car which I had driven all the way to work. Traffic was moving at a snail's pace as I sat bumper to bumper with others making their nightly commutes.
I finally arrived home, parked my red Camri in the garage and headed to the kitchen for a cup of latte. I decided to order out for a pizza and then checked for phone messages. There was a reminder from Mr. Shigley, Martin's Principle, that one or both of his parents needed to come for a 10:30 morning appointment tomorrow to talk with him and the school's Liaison Officer. Martin had gotten into a scuffle again. Jeffrey must have left the office early to pick up Martin and find out what he had done this time. It sounded as if he Mr. Shigley had set-up the appointment with Jeff. I guess we were both going to make this one.
My family arrived shortly before the pizza was delivered. Neither appeared too happy.
“I see by the message Mr. Shigley left, everyone has had a wonderful day.” I said sarcastically.
Martin, in his sullen mood just said, “Mom, can we not talk about it right now. Dad lectured me all the way home and nearly killed us running a red light.”
The pizza guy rang the doorbell and Martin set the table, while Jeff tossed together some salad. I paid for the pizza and tipped the guy respectively. We all sat down and ate silently. Martin finished and excused himself to his bedroom. Jeff went into the office. I cleaned up. Afterward, I dusted and vacuumed the living room, then stretched out on the couch with my I Pad. Opening the good novel I'd been reading, I settled in for a couple of hours of relaxation. About 9 p.m. Jeff came out and called Martin downstairs.
The boy graciously took his time, finally sitting in the armchair with arms crossed. Jeff and I sat across from him on the couch. “Martin,” Jeff said, “would you please fill mother in on what happened today?”
“Why bother, you wouldn't believe me anyway.”
“Honey,” I calmly stated, “Why don't you give me a chance? Just tell the truth. You know we love you Martin, and only want the best. Please just give us a chance.”
“Alright mom.” he sighed. “Jimmy Burgess and his loser friends cornered me at my locker after lunch. They started saying I thought I was something special just because you were front page news. They called you some pretty bad names mom. I guess I just lost it and swung my fist into Jimmy's face a few times, before his goons pulled me away. Then Mr. Perceval walked outta his classroom and broke everything up. We were all sent to the office. I told Principle Shigley and Sgt. Manning what happened. Then Jimmy, who was in the nurse’s office for a nose bleed, turned it all around, making it sound like I caused the whole thing. Mom, it doesn't matter if it's my fault or.....what's so funny?” Martin interrupted, perplexed.
My half controlled smirk now let go and I started laughing out loud, finally catching myself. “Oh, Martin, I'm so sorry. It was wrong of you to hit someone, but thanks for slugging the idiot on my behalf. Maybe Jimmy's parents will be there to and I can give them a piece of my mind about teaching their son to gang up on others.”
“Now Heather,” interjected Jeff, “Two wrongs are not going to make it right. First of all, Martin, you really need to control that temper of yours. Sometimes you should walk away from explosive situations. Everyone knows this not the first time you and Jimmy have confronted one another.”
“But Dad, they cornered me. Somebody did get Mr. Perceval. It all happened so fast.”
“Well, we'll see what happens at the conference tomorrow. I hope the other kids around at the time stick up for you. At this point, you're going to need all the help you can get because Mr. Perceval said that this was the fourth incident and that you're basically out for the rest of the year. This is very serious Martin.”
Martin shifted uncomfortably. “I know Dad, I'm sorry.”
I finished by asking him to go on to his room and that here would be no more internet until further notice. “Jeff, could you please retrieve Martin's keyboard? Thank you. Bed by 10 pm tonight son, okay?
“May as well, there is nothing else to do without my computer.” Martin trudged upstairs.
“He'll be out for remainder of the school year now.” Jeff said. “This is just what we need.”
“I'm sure they will have his assignment on the schools site like the other times. By law, they have to offer a tutor, so he'll be fine. Maybe this will be best in the long run; at least kids like Jimmy Burgess won't be at the house to get him into trouble.”
“Heather, your right, but that boy just about has me at the end of my rope. Are you coming tomorrow?”
“Yes, I think it is best that we both be there. I want to meet this young man's parents. There is usually something behind those who bully. By the way, I'm not going to give them a piece of my mind. I realize that their boy is just as rebellious as ours, even if he is more so.”
“That's good dear. You had better start looking at the tutors they'll offer. We may not find a suitable or available one. Then what are we going to do with him?”
“We'll take out an ad. There has to be a college student around here willing to tutor. I’ll look online and see what options are available out there to.”
We called it a night and went upstairs and got ready for bed.