Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Losing things

"Anyway, it doesn't matter how much, how often, or how closely you keep an eye on things because you can't control it. Sometimes things and people just go. Just like that."  ~ Cecelia Ahern, "There's no place like here"

I lose things. I absolutely, resolutely, completely and totally misplace things all the time. Occasionally, the evasive  items seem to reappear in the most random locations possible. I remember, back in middle school, I was absolutely frantic because I'd lost my French book. I had a huge quiz on several chapters the next day. My mother and I turned the house completely upside down looking for it to no avail. I called every friend in that class to see if she might have taken my book by mistake. I retraced my steps over and over again. When my mom (who is a former French teacher) promised she'd do her best to make me up a study guide, with thoughts on her best 'guesstimate' of what the test would include, she realized it was time to start dinner for our family. The mocked up French chapters would have to wait until we'd eaten. As she opened the fridge, she saw, behind the orange juice and leftovers, the hiding text. For reasons I couldn't quite fathom, I'd come home from school, opened the refrigerator to get a snack and then left all of my school books inside. It made no sense, and yet, it made perfect sense. It was a logical, albeit peculiar, place for me to set them down after school and before my riding lessons.

Most of the time, my forgetfulness is exactly like this experience my 12 year old self had had: my missing items aren't actually missing. They're simply misplaced. I'm a terrible organizer, even to this day. I will kick my shoes off in the most illogical spots and then be panicked when I can't find them. (They're usually under my desk or, for reasons I don't really understand, in the pantry.). My husband will find bills in my car. My daughter will notice that my favorite bracelet is in the suitcase I'd used a week before. My son will laughingly point out that my sunglasses are not, in fact, missing, but rather are on my head. 

And yet, there are those times when something simply vanishes. It's gone. No amount of house turning over will help. I have learned the "St. Anthony" prayer from my Catholic friends. It does help me locate items that are still just misplaced. I've learned, however, that some odds and ends are stubborn and refuse to be located. I think this is why I enjoyed "There's no place like here" by Cecelia Ahern so much. Ahern (who is best known for "P.S. I love you" and "The Book of Tomorrow") has created a magical world. But, unlike Narnia or Middle Earth, Ahern's other dimension is populated by all those missing objects that people lose every day. The land is filled with car keys, luggage that vanished from being checked onto a plane and thousands of individual socks. More than that, Ahern has imagined a place where all those missing people, the ones we see flyers for every day, have landed. These folks have gone onto have full lives, built homes and a sense of community, in this home of the disappeared. The protagonist, Sandy Shortt (who is over 6 feet tall), has a classmate that vanishes from her neighborhood in Ireland, and becomes obsessed with finding every lost possession. She goes on to create a private detective service, specializing in missing people. Because, in both life and literature, irony remains a crucial tool, Shortt herself goes missing and winds up in this home for the off course. There was no need for money (though the residents have plenty, thanks to those vanished wallets and purses) because all of their needs are met by gathering the new suitcase arrivals. They have homes, lives, jobs and are settled into the lives they now have.

Although some readers had found this novel scary, rather than quirky, I quite enjoyed it. I actually took comfort in believing that, perhaps, my collection of right hand gloves (I have dozens of lefts) are somewhere nice. I am optimistic that my books (most of which I'd only made it halfway through) are being read by someone else somewhere. I'd be relieved to know that my children's favorite toys (which were tearfully left behind in places) would be loved by others. While it's awful losing something we treasure, the possibility that it's gone on to have 'another life' is ultimately reassuring. 

Obviously, this can't happen. Those poor books, left forgotten and face down on a beach someplace, have turned to paper goo. The stuffed animals, or Star Wars figures, would have, at best, ended up in the trash. My right hand gloves, most likely left on top of my car after I'd unlocked my vehicle, probably blew off to be driven right over only moments later. Still, the imaginative idea of a second life for all of this 'baggage'  is a fascinating daydream. I'd like to believe it.

In the meantime, I'll continue to look for my yoga mat  and car keys. If only I could find them!