OUR FAMILY’S CRAZY CHRISTMAS:
TRAP DOORS, MIDNIGHT BURGLARIES, AND A VOICE BEHIND THE COUCH
It all began in Amsterdam. Our granddaughter and her husband, in Holland, needed a larger house. As in California, homes are expensive, so they were barely able to afford an older, two-story, owned for years by a woman who was born and, in her old age, died there. But after the late-year deal was closed, they made an astonishing discovery: their two-story home was actually three stories, with a never-revealed full basement.
And how did they know? As a contractor began renovations, he discovered a trap door, leading to a ladder. Of all places, the trap door was in the bathroom, hidden UNDER the linoleum. Meaning the house was now a third more valuable than anyone had suspected. Even the ladder was a mystery, descending into a basement filled to the brim with sand.
But what was the purpose of the mysterious trap door? And since when were trap doors located in bathrooms?
Nobody knows, but speculations are rampant. Perhaps during WW II, the basement was used to sequester and protect a family of Jews. Or perhaps the sand is hiding a treasure of Dutch art work from marauding Nazis in 1940, such as paintings or statuary. Until the sand is removed, the house and its secrets will not be revealed. Extensive renovation permissions in Holland are slow. Until then, the larger family holds its breath.
Soon after, our daughter’s two children and their significant others spent Christmas in Tracy’s Tustin home. On Christmas Eve, grandson Dane was awakened by a one a.m. alarm on his phone: Since he runs a video business, he was able to see a man running through his company, with computers under his arms . . . and also that a glass door was shattered. Dane woke Tracy’s Paul, and together the two arrived at two a.m., called the police, and found that three computers had been stolen. And there was blood on the floor. The police offered no reasonable solutions.
Two nights later it happened again. Same thief. Two more computers gone, including Tracy’s. And a photo of the thief on house video. Now Tracy got involved. After the police said they had more important jobs than solving property crimes, Tracy called an old friend, the mayor of Santa Ana. (As a once four-year mayor herself, she had a good relationship with Miguel Polido.) Polido was eager to help.
Not one to let thieves disrupt a family business, Tracy scouted the neighborhood and nearby found a homeless tent encampment—and possibly a view of the oft-filmed crook. A few days later, three pickle ball friends gave themselves a new title, Crime Fighters, and joined Tracy in secretly scouting the tents. What they found were three bums in a raging argument with a Uber driver. After they all drove away, Tracy’s posse followed them in a jeep—a long drive through the streets of Santa Ana, with Tracy continuously on the phone to Police Dispatch, keeping them informed of their location. When the Uber stopped in front of a bank, so did the police.
Within minutes all three men, including the video burglar, were handcuffed. Two had outstanding warrants. Later that day, Santa Ana police sent Dane an email message. “We just want to thank you for your friends, who so determinedly ran down two crooks.” Tracy told us with a laugh, “They never knew that one of the “friends” was his mother.”
Last, in celebration of Rob’s and my 71st anniversary, January 3, we were invited to our son Chris and Betty-Jo’s Tustin home for dinner. Of course significant family members had celebrated the year before, including our son Ken and his wife from Virginia. So we knew this year only the locals would be there. Still, when Rob and I were directed to Betty-Jo’s living room couch and handed a drink, after a couple of minutes we heard a distinctive voice, somewhere behind us, say, “Can’t a guy get a decent meal around here?” Instantly, I recognized the voice as our son, Ken . . . and I thought, Where did they get this audio tape? Unlike me, Rob knew it wasn’t a tape. The voice was practically in his ear.
Suddenly, Ken jumped out from behind the couch—easily one of the greatest surprises I’ve had in decades. Once again, Rob and I reveled in our family’s recognition of our long marriage. And the family’s determination to make Ken’s visit a huge moment.
Except for the house in Amsterdam, we expect the craziness of this year’s Christmas season is now over.