Earlier this summer our family had a disturbing encounter. While I was at work a young man came to our door and offered to cut our lawn for a surprisingly fair amount of money. My wife, who had become impatient with my procrastination, agreed.

So, this guy and his silent friend in saggy jeans went to work in our back yard. They did a fairly decent job. I withdrew a handful of cash and was ready to pay them when I got home from work. They returned for payment that evening and behaved very strange at the door. while the one boy remained in the driveway staring down the street, the lead one came to the door and accepted the money. Then without warning he forced his way past my wife in the doorway and crossed the room to shake my hand. I was awkwardly accommodating. Then, glancing around our living room he said, “Hey, you guys got any sodas?” And began wandering around our kitchen and dining room.

“No.” I said grabbing his arm, “sorry. We don’t drink sodas.” I moved him to the door and wished him a good night. I closed and latched the door behind him.

“what was that all about?” Andrea asked, noticeably shaken by the awkwardness of the sudden intrusion.

“That.” I told her, “was a man checking our house to see if there is anything worth stealing.” She and the girls looked a little shocked.

I turned to Clara, and motioned around our TVless living room with its thrift store couches and barren walls, “Don’t worry.” I smiled. “There is nothing here anyone would want to steal.” I looked at Andrea. “I kindof wish I would have given him the full tour. Wouldn’t it be great if he came back tomorrow and stole our laundry pile?”

He didn’t come back. We had even offered him a good deal if he would mow our front yard. But, we never saw him again and the whole thing passed from our minds like every other day. One bleeds into another.

A week or so later my brother shows up at our door with a special surprise for the girls. While he was moving homes he decided to give Clara a start of homeschooling present: a child sized desk that used to sit in my bedroom when I was a young boy. He told them its epic journey, how it was his, and then mine, and then cousin Niquilena’s and then cousin Drake’s, and now would be theirs. They were instructed that each owner could apply one sticker of their choice to the desktop, and were forbidden from removing any of the previous owner’s stickers. The girls listened to the rules with solemn attention. This holy relic with its mystic history and attached laws was placed in a shrine in the far corner of our living room sanctuary.

The instant the door closed behind my brother, while Lydia stood on the couch waving out the window, Clara exploded into a spontaneous victory dance encircling the desk. She jumped. Sang. Threw confetti. Cartwheeled. And yelled at the top of her smiling voice, “Finally! Finally, after all these years! We finally have something that someone would want to steal!” She giggled uncontrollably and hugged the back of the seat.

The real American dream is alive and well, and my girls had finally arrived.