The Year the Grinch Stole Our Christmas. And the Day the Kid Stole My Purse. November 29 2010

I was sitting at the bus stop outside the Metro tonight, the last leg on my daily commute home from work, when I started with the flashbacks. The first was of something that happened two years ago. I was six months pregnant at the time, and it was dark and cold outside as I waited for my husband to pick me up from this same spot. I was tired, so I sat on a bench with my purse and bag right next to me, and I focused intently on typing a message into my phone. From the corner of my eyes I knew the teenagers were there. They were being loud and boisterous, but at that moment their squawking was just white noise to me. Until the next second, when a  hand reached toward me, and this young mocoso grabs my purse and takes off, hauling ass across the commuter parking lot.

My instincts and adrenaline kicked in. I start screaming No, Stop, No, Stop Him, My Purse, My Purse, Stop Him! I am thinking about everything that is in my purse -- my house and car keys, checks with my address, my credit cards, my life -- everything. I start crying as I scream. I want someone to tackle him. I am running, hauling it across the commuter parking lot and I'm not too far behind this teenager. I might tackle him.

He jumps a fence, and I stop, because I am pregnant and panting, but I manage to yell between my pathetic sobs, "I'm pregnant, you asshole!" As I turn around and start walking back toward the bench where I was sitting I realize I am overwhelmed and really crying hard now. A man who was getting into his car in the parking lots comes over and tells me he's called the police, and just as he says  it I see sirens.

To make this long story short (because I want to get to telling you about the next flashback I had), the police caught the kid who stole my purse. And I got my purse back. It was perfectly intact, believe it or not. I couldn't believe that of all the crime that goes on in this city, they catch the guy who steals a pregnant woman's purse. I think that was probably karma at work there. The kid, a 16-year-old first time offender, ended up getting prosecuted but got probation and community service.

So remember, I said I was thinking about this tonight as I sat at the bus stop, clutching my bags and cautiously sizing up my surroundings. The kids sitting next to me suddenly got up and ran to a suburban that pulled up, threw their backpacks inside and hopped in. I don't see a lot of suburbans here in DC like I did when we lived in Texas, and suddenly I am remembering the suburban we had, for a brief period of time, in the mid-'80s. When I was in first grade, my parents bought a suburban because by that point we were four kids and we didn't fit in a regular car anymore. That suburban rocked -- it was brown and tan with tinted windows and a tape player (versus 8-track), and felt like a space ship because I could sit far in the back away from the parents.

I remember during the Christmas holiday season in 1985, my mom let me skip school so that I could go with her and my grandmother in our new suburban to Laredo -- the nearest big city to where we lived -- to go Christmas shopping. I remember drips and pieces of the day, like that my mom bought me two dark velvet dresses and patent leather shoes to wear to school for the holiday parties. I thought they were lovely, and couldn't wait to wear them. I remember being just small and short enough to hide inside the racks of clothes at the department stores.

I picked out a Cabbage Patch Kids set that had baby bottles and plates for pretend mom-baby play, and I remember telling my mom that it was what Santa who was going to bring those to me. It's that age where it's convenient to believe in Santa, even if you know he isn't real.

I think we ate at Luby's that day. Probably, if my grandmother was with us. Luby's is the shizzle to her.

We shopped the whole day and filled up the entire back area of that suburban. My mother had a blanket to cover up all the bags, just in case, I remember her saying. It felt as if we had our own Santa's sleigh.

I remember I was wearing a lavender coat throughout the day, but that when we made a quick stop at the grocery store that night before heading back home I left it in the suburban. And as we pushed the cart back toward the suburban I remember feeling cold, and when we got to the spot where we had parked all that was left was shattered glass on the ground. My mom started going in circles and saying she probably parked somewhere else, where did it go? Our suburban was gone. All the gifts. My lavender coat, velvet dresses and patent leather shoes. Party clothes for my brothers and toys for them. I probably started crying, but I don't remember. I remember being cold, and having no coat as the cops came to take information from my mom about our stolen car. I remember hearing them throw out the possibility that the suburban was long gone, crossed the border into the blackhole of Mexico just a few miles down on the freeway -- where stolen cars and Christmas presents never came back.

We never got the suburban back, and my parents managed to do all the Christmas shopping all over again quickly, somehow. They got me a red coat, with faux wool lining. And a white rabbit fur coat, to boot. Santa even brought me a new Cabbage Patch Kid, a bald premie boy named Isaac.

I don't remember the particulars of any other Christmases from when I was small. This is the one that branded itself in my memory. I guess the confluence and tangling up of these two memories in my mind tonight is just a reminder to beware of the grinches lurking out there. That Christmas where our suburban was stolen still turned out to be a good Christmas. Memorable for all the wrong reasons. But still, memorable and ultimately a happy one.