I was about to leave work when my mobile rang. It was my son:
"Mum, we have been robbed. I was in my room. I disturbed them."
Even when your "baby" is a full grown man of 20, you still feel guilt at not being there when the bad things happen.
I peppered him with quick questions: Are you safe? Are the pets safe? Have you called the police?
One cat was missing, feared slipped out through the open door. Other than that, all present and yes, he was waiting for the police. I said to call his sister and I would be there in 20 minutes.
It was a very long 20 minutes.
By the time I arrived home, the last of the police cars was pulling away. The missing cat had been found hiding on a bed and my eldest daughter and her friend were there. The cats were hiding inside, the dog was on a lead and neither she nor the humans were able to go inside until CSI had been! We also couldn't close the back door which was how they got in.
My son, recovering from a bad virus the week before, had decided to take sickie from college and was napping in bed. He heard someone walking around the house, which was strange, but when they began breaking the privacy lock on his door, he knew something was wrong. Perched on his loft bed, with its curtain closed, he watched as they entered the room and took a moment to note their appearance before drawing back the curtain. Charging down from his bed, he chased them and they quickly left via the way they had entered.
After calling 000, my son looked around the house. My jewelry box had been upended on my bed, the contents of my husband's sock drawer were strewn on the floor. Cupboards in other rooms were flung open and my son's (empty) wallet rifled.
My thoughts were for my camera and old work laptop, but he could tell me they were both still where I had left them - fortunately not in an obvious place. As I drove home, I thought of two possible losses: my great aunt's opal ring, damaged and sentimental value only, and the ring my husband gave me for our 25th wedding anniversary.
The animals were loaded into my daughter's car and taken to her home for the duration and my son and I waited for the CSI crew, who arrived within half an hour. I waited with my second daughter and her husband who had come round, while my son re-entered the house and showed the police around. Then I was asked to look around and see what was missing. My aunt's ring was there - my ring was not. Later, we would find my husband's wedding ring overlooked, but the signet ring I bought for our engagement and struggled to buy when we were just 17, was gone. As far as we know, these are the only losses. The fact they were disturbed probably saved us other losses, including items they had obviously set aside to pick up on the way out.
After everyone had gone, left with fingerprint dust scattered around my furniture and possessions, I strangely did not feel the expected violation - instead just overwhelming relief. My son had done us proud - or has watched so much TV that he knew exactly what to do! My dog was traumatised - goodness knows what her experience was before my son disturbed them. The cats had a sleepover and came back the next night, very twitchy. But my treasures were safe, nothing had been damaged and the police actions were reassuring (although finding out later that about SEVEN officers had descended on our home, alert to a possible hostage situation was news I am glad I hadn't known earlier!!)
Sadly, we have learned that doors must be locked even when you are in the house. Although our suburb has a (possibly deserved) reputation for crime and a criminal element, this was actually my first experience as a victim of crime (although both my daughter and husband have had cars broken into in recent times). I am more disappointed that my civic pride has been dented and I can no longer defend the reputation of the city I have lived in for 40 years.
My role as parent of non-dependent adult children has also been harshly enforced - the police are dealing directly with my son, taking his details, contacting him, meeting with him. I am just an interested by-stander, here to describe my losses and hear my son debrief. Oh well, he still needs me to drive him!
UPDATE: after posting this, I began cleaning up my jewlery and found my missing ring! Let's hope my husband's turns up too!