Gone Baby Gone

This is my column for Sunday's Island Packet. I'm posting it here because I know I told a few of you faithful Just Sayin' readers (haha) how excited I was about the camper we just bought.

Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to have faith in the goodness of mankind.

A few years ago — admittedly against my better judgment — my husband and I bought a sailboat. She was a Marshall Sanderling catboat, wide and heavy and slow, a 17-foot beauty with a fiberglass hull and wooden topsides with two bunks below deck.

I knew nothing about sailing save for what I’d learned by listening to my husband’s tales of sailing every summer with his cousins and uncles through the canal system in upstate New York. It was love at first sight between him and this boat, and I knew my most objective reasoning about bills and budgets and expensive boat slips were falling on deaf ears. When he saw her he regressed to his 12-year-old self, and I was sunk.

We named her Desiderata, something desired, and set about sanding and staining and painting her, a process I soon learned needed repeating every year. She spent hours on the May River, sailed around Calibogue Sound, and became intimately acquainted with the Beaufort River and Port Royal Sound as well.

She made many people happy but none more so than my husband, who dreamt of one day teaching his son to sail the way his uncles had taught him. He was sure Desiderata was just about the safest vessel on which his boy could learn the art and athletics of sailing.

Then last summer she was stolen, trailer and sails and all, right out of the lot where we were storing her.

Over the years I had warmed to the boat but still regarded her like a greedy family member, one who is sucking too much money from your wallet though you don’t have the heart to put them out on the street. After all, they’re family. And for my husband the theft was very much like a sudden death in the family.

We didn’t talk much about it — he really couldn’t bear to — except for the occasional conversation on the processes of filing a police report and obtaining an insurance claim. The settlement check arrived in the mail last month; I thought I’d be happy to recoup our investment, but really, depositing that money in our account felt pretty hollow.

For awhile my husband talked about using some of the cash to buy another boat. But eventually that idea turned into one of buying a camper, and suddenly it was my 12-year-old self reappearing from the haze of childhood to smile with anticipation and nostalgia.

The summers of my youth had been spent in the woods with my aunts and uncles and cousins, tubing down the Schroon River by day and making mountain pies over the campfire by night. And oh how eager I was to carry on those traditions with my boy.

After searching for weeks we found the perfect one on Charleston’s Craigslist, a 10-foot pop-up camper that sleeps six to eight people. It was a 2001 Jayco that came equipped with a little refrigerator, gas grill, cold A/C and even an attached awning and screen room. The pristine pictures of the little pop-up camper sold us on the deal, and we were thrilled.

We contacted the seller, who said he had moved the camper from Craigslist to iSold It, an eBay affiliate, to sell it there. There were some strange stipulations to the sale — the seller asked for payment to a third party through Money Gram — but after researching the validity of both iSold It and Money Gram, we took a leap of faith and sent the money, assured that within 48 hours we’d get a confirmation e-mail and be able to pick the day for our vacation-on-wheels to be delivered.

We spent the first few days daydreaming of all the adventures we’d have with our little boy, knocking around campgrounds across the country just as I’d done as a girl. But as day after day came and went without that confirmation e-mail, we slowly realized we’d been scammed. We never heard from the seller again.

It had been a fake sale, orchestrated by someone who pirated a legitimate company’s name and reputation to scam us out of our money and our dream.

There was no more boat, and now, no camper either.

When someone steals something from you, you’re left feeling stupid and vulnerable, exposed and angry and empty. Luckily, if you center yourself on the treasures of your heart, you are somewhat bolstered by the kinds of riches you know can never be stolen.

So to the scammers, con artists and thiefs out there: You can take a possession, you can even dim a dream. But you cannot steal a memory. And, try as you might, you can’t swipe the intentions we have of passing down to our child the happiness we were blessed with as kids.

We’ll just keep finding another way to do it.

When I close my eyes I can see me as a child, unzipping the screen in our family’s camper to feel the dew on the canvas and smell the bacon my dad is frying over the fire. I can inhale the pine mountain air and hear the stirrings of my loved ones in their campsites nearby.

Such a scene still fills me with peace, and a childlike giddiness. And that’s a gift I will pass down to my son, so that someday when he is grown and the world tries to knock the wind out of his sails, he, too, will have a few treasures even the most cunning thief cannot steal.


Tara said...

I'm sorry, Robyn. I'm sorry that you've been stressed out and that you were victimized - not once, but twice. What a rotten turn of events. You've probably already thought of all this, but if you were scammed, is there any chance of getting your money back? Did you pay with a credit card? Does your bank have any kind of electronic transaction protection?

Melissa said...

OH NO, I was so excited for you... and was hoping for a pic of this camper :( I am sorry that happened to you!!

Kim said...

That totally sucks. Sorry.

Heather Hoefer said...

What the ...? If you need me to make some phone calls, rough someone up, let me know. I got your back, kid.

Sheila said...

Leave it up to you, Rob, to find perfect perspective in a not-so-perfect world. Only one of the reasons why I admire you so much.