As of New Year’s Eve, I’ve lived in my apartment for five years. (For me, a woman who has moved and moved and moved throughout her life, that’s a long time. It’s not the longest I’ve lived somewhere, but it’s in the top three.) Early in my time here, I misplaced two things that are deeply precious to me: the charm bracelet my mother made for me when I was in high school and a beautiful piece of aventurine that was a gift from my best-beloved aunt many years ago.
When I first realized my bracelet wasn’t where I thought it was, I thought immediately of the fact that its clasp and safety chain had been in need of repair. I wondered if it had fallen off the last time I’d worn it, which would mean it was truly, irretrievably gone. I didn’t want to believe that, felt certain that I’d have noticed it slipping off my hand. Still, it was nowhere to be found, so the possibility of for-real loss was there.
But I knew the aventurine had to be somewhere in my apartment. I had once almost lost it years ago. I used to carry it in my pocket to hold like a worry stone when I was out and about. After the near-loss, I’d stopped carrying it, stopped bringing it outside. So the aventurine had to be mislaid, not lost.
I’ve misplaced things in my home before. I mean. Doesn’t everyone? Those missing items have always turned up eventually. The charm bracelet and aventurine didn’t and didn’t and didn’t. Didn’t and didn’t and didn’t.
I was sad about the losses in a wave-like way: sad all the time in a quiet, under-the-surface way and then bursts of frustrated-and-weepy sad. Neither item could be replaced. My mother had spent four years adding charms to my bracelet, each one selected to represent some bit of me – the instrument I played, the hobbies I’d enjoyed, my age. The one time years ago that I thought I’d lost my piece of aventurine, I’d bought another couple of pieces to replace it. None of those pieces had the color and glitter of my piece, and even if they’d magically been identical, they wouldn’t have come from Mildred, so the love I felt when I held that stone would still have been lost.
Last year, I was reorganizing my clothing storage, doing a little bit of a Marie Kondo purge-and-refold. In a ring box in a bag that I thought held only jewelry I was either going to chuck or salvage for parts, I found my bracelet. I was ecstatic. As soon as I saw it, I remembered putting it in the box so that I could take it to a jeweler and get it fixed. How the box wound up in that bag of mistakes and messes, I don’t know. I shuddered, remembering that I’d twice almost tossed the whole thing in the trash without looking through it.
I took everything in my closets apart then, certain my aventurine must be there, too. I searched through places it would never have made sense to keep it. I looked in every storage bin and bag, checked the pockets of every dress, every pair of jeans, every coat. Nothing.
Since the start of the year, I’ve been slowly working my way through Apartment Therapy’s January Cure. I’ve done the Cure once in entirety and twice in unfinished fits and starts. I’ve been pushing myself this time around, determined to complete the house overhaul. The pandemic has made so clear to me how much I haven’t truly made my house a home in the five years I’ve been there. I’m determined to make my space work more comfortably for me, clear out the many oddbits I truly have no need or desire for, finally sort and organize my craft storage closet, set up a second WFH area in my dining alcove so I don’t only have to work in my bedroom.
On Saturday I gave myself 15 minutes to reorganize my journal storage. Used and new notebooks had been piling up haphazardly on a couple of shelves and frustrated me every time I looked at them, so I set about clearing the space so I could put things back in a way that made sense.
I found more than journals, of course. I found a folder of my writing that I’d forgotten about, and another folder of readings from the discussion group I co-facilitated when I’d worked in the Mayor’s Office. I found a small container of catnip, twenty dollars in singles and fives, some cute stickers a friend had sent me, some note paper I’d started using during the handwritten-letters portion of the pandemic, and some stamps I’d saved from a package that had come from Ghana.
And – under all the papers, shoved so far back in the shelf it was poised to fall out of the rear opening to be lost behind the bookcases I had no plan to move – was my aventurine.
Yes, I cried. I cried. My beautiful stone from my beloved ancestor was no longer lost. No. I have no idea why it would ever have been on that shelf, how I would have piled papers on top of it. But it was found. At last.
My senior year of college, I was out for a museum day with a friend. We took a cab from the museum to our chosen late-lunch spot, took another cab to Grand Central to head back to campus. In that second cab, my friend realized she no longer had the lovely silk scarf she’d been wearing. She searched her bag and pockets, talking about when she’d gotten the scarf and how much it meant to her. She was sad and frustrated to realize it was gone, that she likely left it in the first cab.
Our driver, hearing and rear-view-mirror witnessing the discovery of the loss and the fruitless search, shared some driver-side wisdom: “We only lose the things we don’t really need, the things that don’t serve us or hold us back. The next person to find that scarf needs it, more than you.”
My friend was enraged and spent the rest of the ride haranguing that man. She refused him a tip when we reached the train station, asking for every coin of change back.
That … was a mess. From both sides. There may be a kernel of knowing in what the driver said, some deep, way-of-the-universe mumbo jumbo that could have served a purpose. But for-sure not in that moment, not when the loss has only just been discovered. And, too, would it ever make sense to put so much weight on a pretty piece of fabric? To say it was holding her back, not serving her? I mean, really. It was a scarf. It had served perfectly well until it was lost.
Had my bracelet and stone been truly lost forever, it’s possible that whoever found them would have been happy to have them, might even have come to cherish them to a degree similar to mine, though not for the same reasons. Had I lost them, the love that created the bracelet or inspired the gift of the aventurine wouldn’t have been lost, of course not. But I like my physical, tangible tokens. That’s a truth that stands between me and a future tiny-home life … and one that makes the loss of beloved objects painful, makes the finding of them joyous.
That cabbie’s half-flippant dismissal would have set me off, too. Beloved possessions don’t need to have the power to hold us back or propel us forward. They just are. They charm us (no pun intended), connect us to memories. Losing them might not bring world’s crashing down, but the losses have weight, and we get to feel what we feel and don’t need strangers brushing our human-ness aside.
I’m glad this period of separation from two of my favorite things has come to an end, glad I no longer have to mourn the loss of either … and glad that they, like many of my most cherished things, are quite small, small enough to join me in my future tiny house.
I don’t subscribe to the notion that every loss is orchestrated by the hand of fate. Some losses are just losses. The finding, though … the finding often feels like a kind of divine serendipity, objects returning to you when you need them specifically or miss them most acutely. That’s a notion I can get behind.
It’s the 16th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!
In 2017, I took up Vanessa Mártir’s #52essays2017 challenge to write an essay a week. I didn’t complete 52 essays by year’s end, but I did write like crazy, more in 2017 than in 2015 and 2016 combined! I’ve kept working on personal essays, kept at my #GriotGrind. If you’d care to join, it’s never too late! Find the group on FB: #52Essays Next Wave.