Nine and half years ago I got my first real taste of our injustice system. You can read about the details in the drop down menu tab “The Event” but the very basic story is:
We had a devastating house fire that I ran from carrying my then 2.5 years old and 15 month old while being 14 weeks pregnant, minutes before I was expecting a house full of my friends and their toddlers for our weekly Mommy and Me class.
The gas company responded with a more than normal response such as digging up our entire street and replacing caps, lines, meters, and valves after over a year of neighbors complaining of smelling gas.
The police responded with an investigation (or lack there of) that lasted less than 24 hours. And our insurance company followed suit by never completing a full investigation to our knowledge and taking the detective’s word that I burned my own house down and thus, denied our claim.
Three weeks after we sued insurance for wrongful denial, I was indicted for aggravated arson and the insurance claim was put on hold.
I was initially offered a deal from the prosecution to plea down from a second degree felony to a third degree felony with no jail time and mandatory counseling. But I’d be a convicted felon. No deal. For 6 years my case was moved around from judge to judge, and prosecutor to prosecutor while I showed up to court every 6-8 weeks for a 2 minute appearance.
After 6 years of nonsense and 7 years after the loss, my case became the oldest on the docket and a new deal was brokered. I was offered pre trial intervention that stated that if I plea and don’t sue insurance, I can be on probation for 12-18 months, have a chance to expunge my record, and insurance won’t sue us.
Let me be clear that the fact that our civil lawsuit was completely intertwined with the criminal case is abhorrent. I was handcuffed to committing a crime in order to be free from a crime I never committed.
Let that sink in…
So here I am now, a college educated middle class Caucasian Stay at Home Mom with no record. Life is generally great for me now and I truly can’t complain about my personal day to day. And yes, agree or not, that is privilege.
Tonight, in preparation for Election Day, I went looking for my pearls. My grandparents gave me and each of my cousins a set of pearls for our bat mitzvahs. Years later, my boyfriend, now husband, added a ring to the set when we went to Disney and I picked an oyster in “Japan” at Epcot.
I rarely wear my pearls but they are extraordinarily sentimental to me. We had them cleaned and restrung after the fire after finding them in the charred oriental jade and wooden jewelry case my uncle had given to me, again, for my bat mitzvah.
My pearls sit in the same plastic bag the jeweler used to return them to me and have been untouched in a drawer since we moved into this house 5 years ago.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find my pearl ring and I knew there was only one place it could be, if it survived the fire.
I opened my bottom drawer in my closet, gingerly lifting the bag out and placing it on the floor. The scent of smoke and ash wafted up as I opened the bag to reveal the charred box. I slid each drawer open, revealing the imprints the fire left around each piece of my jeweled memories.
I sat and examined each burnt item in the box, tears flooding my eyes, soot blanketing my hands. The ring, unfortunately, was nowhere to be found.
As I sat there sobbing, a clarity overwhelmed me knowing that my grandparents and late uncle would be proud of me, the choices I’ve made, and the one I’m making tomorrow.
Tomorrow, I will don my pearls in honor of RBG and in memory of my grandparents. I will vote for the rights of my friends who are justified in demanding equality. I will vote for the future of my daughters to always have control over their own bodies. I will vote for a system that is truly blind to color, religion, orientation, and gender, and one that is honestly just.
Tomorrow, I will finally put out my charred jewelry box to the curb while taking out the rest of the trash at the polls. It’s time to let it go.
Tomorrow, may we all begin to heal our nation’s great divide.