Last Sunday evening, while making final preparations for my class the next morning, I realized my textbook was nowhere to be found. I rifled through my deep school bag, pawed through my second work bag, opened boxes in my closets, and sat scratching my head trying to figure out what happened. I had gone through it in recent weeks, so I knew it had to be around. And while it was clear a continued search would be on the agenda for my arrival at the office the next morning, I still wrote a large reminder sign to do just that, and slipped in into my cart.
The next morning, I found my textbook, along with several other handouts and documents I had recently stored for the first class session, in a vertical file on top of a shelf. I had recently made copies of these same saved documents after searching for them unsuccessfully.
Sometimes you are too organized for your own good.
Earlier that week, I was on my way to lunch with members of my department. As we left my building, I dropped my tiny purse, which held a wad of cash, my driver’s license, and my cell phone. While casually swinging it over my shoulder, the contents flew out, splatting on the floor of the foyer. We all had a brief chuckle as I gathered up the items and stuffed them back into the purse. A few seconds later, as we exited the building, the same thing happened again. I stepped on the errant twenty dollar bills that fluttered on the side walk, then mopped them up with the heel of my hand as my colleague retrieved my phone. This time I clutched my phone in my hand as we walked to the restaurant.
About three hours later, at home and changing purses, I discovered that my driver’s license was gone. Holding the tiny purse (which was really more of a change purse with a long strap), I shook it forcefully over the bed, jammed my hand inside, crabbing with my fingertips. Nothing. Anxiety mounting, I leaned over the bed, overturned my gym bag, swept the contents from my other purse, and pushed everything around until the entire area was covered with a layer of miscellaneous items. But no license.
Not ever having lost my driver’s license, I was now entering problem-solving mode, trying to figure out what I needed to do to replace it. I was also re-working my schedule for the rest of the day, moping that my workout would have to be abandoned.
I then texted my colleague who had helped me gather up the spilled contents earlier, just in case the license had ended up with her. She wrote back moments later to say she had pulled her car over and emptied the contents of her own purse and found nothing.
Talk about kindness.
It was now time to backtrack. (Remember in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” when Pee Wee reports his missing bike to the police officer, and she counsels him to retrace his steps? That’s when he realizes that Frances is the culprit in stealing the souped-up two-wheeler.)
I ran down to the foyer of my building. Nothing. I turned to go back upstairs to call the restaurant in case it had been turned in — but decided to take a chance and walk outside. I walked the few steps on the sidewalk to the spot where everything had fall from my purse. As I bent down to look underneath the shrubbery, there sat my license, face up, with my sober-looking photo staring back at me. My sigh of relief was so great that it blew the needles off one of the shrubs. It is still bald today. I think the groundskeeper is befuddled.
Sometimes the universe gives you a second chance.
And there was indeed another time She offered a reprieve. Earlier in the summer, a blinding rain storm started as a work meeting was drawing to a close. We called the meeting early, as I had to dash home to check the windows in my living room, which had leaked during a previous storm. The repair worked was scheduled for later that week, and I had been silently praying for a drought all this time. I arrived home to find the windows dry, virtually untouched by the rain. I blew a sigh of relief, strong enough to knock over and break a lamp. Then I reached for my purse to call my colleagues to alert them I was on my way back to school to re-convene our meeting.
No cell phone. I had left it on a chair in the conference room. As mild panic set in, I turned on my computer to email a secretary in the office down the hall from the conference room to ask her to retrieve my phone until I returned to campus. Then I jumped in my car, speeding back to campus, honking my horn and shouting at other motorists to get out of my way.
I ran into the conference room, heaving, and pulled the chair out. There sat my phone, right where I’d left it. The secretary had not yet seen my email. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, knocking the white board from the opposite wall, sending it crashing to the floor. I quickly exited the room, closing the door.
Things don’t always work out so tidily, though. We know this. Our possessions take on different forms of value — their meaning and importance shifts under certain circumstances, especially when we lose them, or are threatened with their potential loss. Had I indeed lost my textbook, driver’s license, and phone, I could have replaced them with relative ease.
I continuously lose umbrellas, for some reason – leaving them in restaurants or other sites, only to replace them or take my chances with the rain. My latest effort to manage this affliction, in my inimitably fastidious manner, is to have an umbrella for my office, my home, and my car. Har-dee-har-har. Take that, Mother Nature.
I can’t seem to hang on to hoop earrings, particularly in the winter. I blame this on turtle neck sweaters and scarves, which snatch them right out of my ears. I have several singletons.
Like everyone, I have lost possessions that held great value to me — what some would term sentimental. But that word implies a romantic, even simpering quality to the valued object. I’d suggest that many personal possessions are cherished for what they represent: accomplishments, important events in our lives, or connections with people dear to us. Those losses, while still manageable, of course, leave a gap – a hollow that we cover over.
I lost my college ring many years ago while swimming in Lake Michigan. I lost a stack of photographs of my brothers and sisters taken during a family reunion several years ago.
About two months ago I lost a key chain that I have referenced in this blog. A good friend gave me two versions of it, to commemorate the passing of my sister Liz, when she knew my siblings and I were travelling to Florida to dedicate a tree in her memory. One chain was for me to keep, and the other was to hang on the tree. I so enjoyed having that chain with me all the time, as it was symbolic of my sister, but also of the kindness of this friend. She had also stayed in touch with me long-distance during the trip, I think, because she knew it was painful.
It took me all this time to finally tell my friend about having lost the chain. I think the temporary losses of these other objects prompted me to do so. I felt compelled to tell her because of the meaning embedded in her gesture.
When I told her, there was no judgment. She did wonder aloud whether there were some other forces operating around this loss. That was all.
Possession lost. Possessions found. We move on.
Friends and loved ones are the cushion for losses of all kinds. That’s what to hang on to, with both hands, gently but firmly.
So … what have you lost and found?