home is where the plants are
A little over two years ago, I moved into my house. We had been in there about a week, my brother and I, and he went out of state for a wedding. I was still adjusting - having not gone to college, I'd never moved out of my parents' house, so to move out into your own place is a little bit of a shock. It was Sunday, Mother's Day, actually, and I was sitting on my bed in my new room listening to the Avett Brothers and doing one of the ten billion pieces of paperwork that go along with buying a house: new insurance. New electric accounts. Everything is a hassle. But I was enjoying myself.
Then I saw a head walk underneath my window. I thought, hmm, maybe it's our neighbor, maybe their dog got out and it's in the backyard? So I walked into the kitchen to look through the porch, and that's when I saw an unfamiliar woman who was NOT the neighbor, squatting and digging up plants with a stick. Okay. So I picked up the phone, for security (new phone bill), and walked out back, past her dilapidated car, and said, uh, hello?
She was short, smelled like patchouli, clad in the style of linen jumper familiar to most of us because our moms wore them. She had tears on her face, dirt on her hands and jumper, clutching one of the plants she was busy digging up. Tried to shake my hand. Said she used to live there. Thoughts of how destroyed the house was flashed through my mind - about the water damage in the basement because they plugged pipes before they left. About the bathroom drawer with fingernail clippings.
I thought about the fact that even if it was Mother's Day and she was sad, she was also trespassing and stealing plants. I didn't shake her hand. I asked her to leave, and I walked around the corner of the house to give her a minute. She didn't follow me, and I had to go back and stop her from digging up MORE plants. When I successfully herded her onto the driveway, she said "but my grandfather planted lilies of the valley just over there <points> and I want to go check on them". I said absolutely not, get in your car and go (I have yet to see lilies of the valley anywhere in the yard, for the record).
(Here's a quick picture of what we DID find in the yard and woods in the following weeks. More has since come to light. I think they had a poor understanding of how composting works. They were very fond of sticking pieces of broken glass into the soil, which you find AS YOU GARDEN.)
She got in her car. Our driveway is not enormous, but there's a big enough square bit in front of the garage to easily turn your car around. She didn't quite make it - she took out my tail-light, just backed right into it. By now she was WEEPING and saying "I never could quite manage this driveway." I wrote down her plate number and told her to leave, again, and then I called the police, and then I called my new insurance agent. When the claim went through, my insurance agent told me she told them she had A. never lived there, B. never been there, and C. didn't even know where the address was located. Fortunately for my case, I was getting (and 2 years later am STILL getting) mail addressed to her, so I was able to prove that she was lying.
When I went over to talk to the neighbors about this incident, they shared that this couple would come back and break into the house after it was foreclosed on, continuing to remove furniture and fixtures, and presumably to damage the place. Since we'd only been there a week, lots of the damage was not yet evident (the electrical system was notably sabotaged in places). Even today, as I write this, my new plumber just told me the well pump has the wrong cap on it, "so spiders are probably crawling into your water pipes." Okay. Chalk it up to Chuck and Deb. Maybe I can send them a bill. Or some of my fingernail clippings.