Uh oh. The Grinch has struck again.
This time, the victim is a reader who wrote me about an incident last Wednesday in their quiet neighborhood in the Berkeley hills.
Her husband was cleaning out the garage, and when it came time for lunch he left some of the stuff in the driveway while he ducked inside for a snack.
When he came back, everything was gone.
Most of the stolen items can be replaced, but not the most precious possessions of all – the family Christmas ornaments, lovingly handmade and collected over three generations.
Gone was a whole village of little ceramic buildings, little people, little angels and, of course, a little Santa.
Gone were the intricate locomotive ornaments (her husband is a train buff) and miniature musical instruments. (He also plays the clarinet.)
Gone was the lobster ornament they brought from New England and the extremely fragile 19th Century ornaments that their former landlady gave them back in the 1960s.
"They had come with her parents on a ship around the Cape, before there was a Panama Canal," she wrote me. "We always took such care to avoid dropping those."
But what hurt the most were the simple little ornaments that she made over the years with her children, and then her grandchildren.
"They were homely little ornaments made with love, and they have no value to anyone but us," she wrote. "I don't think I can bear this any longer, so I'll stop now."
She managed to keep it together when she called the kids to tell them what happened.
"But later, when my granddaughters called to say how sad they were for what had happened, I just burst into tears over the phone. I thought of all the traditions we had built up over the years, and I felt that's what had really been stolen."
None of the neighbors saw or heard anything, so it's doubtful the police will be able to catch the crook. So her 8-year-old granddaughter Casey is appealing to a higher authority:
"Dear Santa Claus, I need you to do a favor for me . . . And it's not a present for me. It's a present for someone else. My grandma and grandpa. And it's a special gift. So they were cleaning out their garadge and they put EVERY single Christmas thing out side and then in just one hour it was all gone. So hears the favor. If you can get most of it back that would be soooooooooooo AMAZEING! Love, Casey
Meanwhile, Casey's grandma is turning to somebody more mundane: me.
"If the person who took our things is reading this, would you let Martin Snapp know if there is any way we can get back that one box of ornaments?" she wrote. "It would mean the world to me, our children, and our grandchildren."
Memo to the thief: Email me at the address below or call 510-748-1666 and leave a message. Here's a rare chance to right a wrong you've done.
And the next time you think of stealing something, ask yourself: Is the piddling little money you might get really worth having something like this on your conscience?