A series of very strange events have been happening to me since I moved into a beautiful 55+ community two years ago. My kids have come to call it PUMPKINGATE! It’s more harrowing than that because I have had items stolen that have no value or use to the thief because no one can use these items as they are only personal to me.
The community has 10,000 residents, (1,000 Jews and its own temple) with apartments, condos and single-family homes, ranging from $300,000-$1 million and surrounding two golf courses. The setting is rustic, with very tall old trees, rolling hills and blooming flowers, three swimming pools, walking paths, a clubhouse, entertainment center and multiple classrooms for a variety of educational, recreational and arts classes. A movie theater, live stage center and delicious restaurant can keep you busy and entertained every day. Because I still work full-time, I am not involved in these extracurricular activities, so consequently, I have not had the ability to be as social as I would like.
Bottom line: I have not cultivated a social environment and only know about half-dozen neighbors who live in the 30 condos in my complex. I have a “Hi, how are you? Nice weather today!” kind of relationship with these people whose last names I do not know and have never been in their homes nor had a cup of tea with any of them. I am a good 12-20+ years younger than 95% of my neighbors. Most are on walking canes, walkers, have eye-sight and other health issues and don’t venture out much.
I can say that one day I was going out for a walk and a very cute, Bubbe-like woman came hobbling down the corridor yelling, “I know you live here, I don’t know your name, I missed my bus and have to get to the doctor! Can you drive me?” I grabbed my keys and took her to the doctor. I asked if I could wait for her and take her home and she exclaimed, “I may be 96 years old but I can find my bus, thank you!”
February 2017: I received via the mail the nameplate I had to purchase for my mailbox. My name was longer than the size of the mailbox and the gentleman in charge of nameplates had to come over and size up the situation and decided he had to order a new one with smaller letters. I suggested he cut it in half with my first name going on top and the last name on bottom. He thought that was genius. He took it home because he needed a special tool to cut it. The next day I was happy to see my nameplate on the mailbox.
The very next day my nameplate was gone! I called the man and told him it was gone and he was shocked and said, “Someone would need a special tool to remove it, they just don’t fall off nor can they easily be pried off. This was deliberate.” Hmmmmm? Why would anyone want my nameplate? I reported the incident to the community security.
March 2017: My granddaughter was having her Bat Mitzvah and before services on Friday evening, I was having all my family over for a Nosh and Schmooze. The outside configuration of my complex does not allow you to see your condo numbers until you actually turn into the porch-way. To avoid numerous people wandering around, I bought a red picture frame and with colorful mosaics I designed 3B on the frame and set in on a small wrought iron table so you could see it while walking down the corridor. No one got lost! One week after the Bat Mitzvah, the red frame with 3B was gone!
Two weeks previous, I had read in the weekly newspaper that a Jewish family in the community had swastikas spray painted on their front porch. Shocking! No one could believe it happened here! And because of this incident, I called the security and local police department as I wanted it noted that I was Jewish and because I have a m’zuzah and Shalom sign on my front door, I had something stolen. Granted, it was only worth $10.00 but I didn’t know if this vandalism was because I was Jewish. The security guard told me to take the items down and I responded “NO WAY! I won’t let anyone intimidate me!” So, I made another 3B mosaic and placed it on the little table!
May 2017: I came home from work one day and the 3B frame was gone! The security and the police were called knowing there was nothing they could do about it but I wanted a paper trail of reports.
July 2017: I waited awhile hoping the thief would be tired of these antics and not only did I remake another 3B in a frame, I glued the frame to the table! One of my smarter ideas! The very next day when I came home from work, the entire table was two feet into the corridor, not where I left it. I believe the perpetrator picked up the frame and was surprised that it was glued to the table, dropped it and ran (hobbled) off. The next day the table was knocked to the ground. Oh, yes, I have pictures! And security and the police were called.
One year had gone by with no intrusion or anything taken from me. I never understood why they didn’t take one of the various flower pots on the porch or the m’zuzah or the Shalom sign. Never made any sense.
September 2018: I came home from work a few weeks ago and the entire table with the 3B frame glued to it was gone! I was shocked after all this time! Security and police were called.
Erev Rosh Hashanah 2018: I walk to my car and see that my front license plate is gone! Wow! Shocked is beyond what I felt. Someone is really toying with me. I called security and the police. I am told I have to go purchase new license plates as the stolen one could be used on a stolen car. I am not a happy camper!
This is pushing it. I am feeling unnerved by this. And I don’t believe the plate fell off as I put it on and know how tight and secure it was.
And then I realize that all the things that have been taken are very personal to ME: my nameplate, the 3Bs, the license plate. No one can use any of these items.
THEN on Yom Kippur night I came home to a VERY large pumpkin on my porch!!! No note, no happy face carved or drawn on it. I can’t make out this gesture. I ran around to see if anyone else had pumpkins on their porch. No other pumpkins.
I just can’t express how invading this felt. I did not see this as a nice gift or pleasant offering coming after the other events. Security and the police are tired of me but I insist on a paper trail.
Late that night I felt so upset that I went outside and threw the pumpkin in the trash.
NEXT DAY, I came home to another pumpkin on my porch. I threw it away.
NEXT NIGHT, I came home to a third pumpkin on the porch and this one was small with a stem about six inches long with an extreme point at the end! This one felt weapon-like. Threatening. Scary. I did throw it away and called security and the police.
I have no idea what to make of all this. Who would go out-of-their-way to buy three pumpkins? If these were gifts or an act of kindness that would have been conveyed in some manner. Why would someone do this?
Hence: PUMPKINGATE! My son even tried to lighten the mood and asked if I had made pumpkin pie! He did purchase and install a RING which will take videos of anyone, including Amazon, etc, who come within 12 feet of my porch. Why didn’t we get one last year? Who would have thought this craziness would go on and on and on.
I feel anxiety every time I approach my porch. I feel watched as to when I am home or gone because all these happenings have occurred while I was away, except the license plate. I will never look at pumpkins in the same.
And, as baby boomers, we have to recognize we live in a different world. People are expressing themselves no-holds-barred! We have to be diligent of our surroundings, careful at night and aware of anything that seems uncomfortable or out-of-place. And report to some authority, if possible.
And in case you are wondering: YES! I did create and place another 3B frame on the porch the day after the third pumpkin arrived, as I need bait for the RING. I will not be bullied or threatened, whether it is a religious hate crime or just a mean act.
And what will I do if we find who the culprit is?
Ask me then.
As a Baby Boomer Bubbe who still feels 18 but has four grand kids to prove this is the 21 Century, Sandra writes to leave a legacy for the next generations. Her belief that these precious kids need to know their cultural and family’s past in order for them to live their future is all the muse she needs!
She has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Cross Cultural studies, has written a family history, personal memoir and is completing her first novel.
Her grandmother’s journey to America and life is her source for her deep belief and love for Judaism.