Sunday, September 18, 2011

Amazing Stories of Lost and Found

In my family there is a history of lost rings returning in the most improbable manner. It started with my mother's high school ring. It was lost in an unaccountable manner sometime between the time she placed it in her jewelry box for good and when she discovered it missing eight or ten years later. My little brother and I (mostly me) were blamed but it seems unlikely we could have lost it. Three and five was the oldest we could have possibly been, not even tall enough to reach the jewelry box. Then again, if I had been specifically told to stay out of something, that meant I would have certainly found a way to get into it.

Sometime after we had moved from the farm, the new tenants' teen-aged daughter found the ring in the garden mud. She had been wearing it for some time when her mother noticed. She recognized my mother's initials and the ring was returned. My mother was very happy, the teen-aged daughter was not very happy, but people were honest in those days, even if it hurt.

My mother was a hard working woman and always had her hands busy at something. She never took her wedding rings off and eventually the gold had worn so thin that it seemed safest to stop wearing them. My equally hard working father found the extra money to give her a simple gold band to replace those rings he had first placed on her hand as a poor young man just out of the Navy. Years later, the worn diamond rings disappeared in the same mysterious manner as the class ring. This time I was the prime and sole suspect but I have no memory of taking them. By then I was old enough to realize what they would have meant to my mother and I would have never disturbed anything of such great value to her. I felt almost as badly for the loss of the wedding rings as my mother must have felt.

My father died, and my mother remarried. We moved to Wichita and eventually the lost rings were no longer discussed. They were gone and nothing could be done about it. One day the phone rang. It was Grandma calling to say she had found one of my mother's rings. Early that morning when she was doing chores, something sparkling in the dirt caught her eye. It was dirty, twisted and bent, but Grandma recognized my mother's engagement ring. She and Grandpa scoured the area where that ring was found, but the matching wedding band was never found.

That lost and found ring has been in my possession for many years. Mom finally handed it down to me. It is almost worthless, with only a tiny single diamond and the thin gold twisted beyond repair but it is a treasure to me. I asked a jeweler to repair it several years ago. He straightened it as carefully as he could, but there is no question of the ring ever being worn again. It is too fragile. Nor should it ever be worn by anyone else. It was a gift from my father to my mother and she wore it every day of her married life until it was literally worn out. I have no idea how it came to be lost in the dirt of Grandpa's farm, or what power placed the sun, the tiny diamond and my grandmother in the exact positions for Grandma to notice it buried in the dirt. But something was responsible for so an improbable event.

Decades later, after my mother passed away, my stepfather gave my mother's wedding rings to me. They were much more expensive and substantial rings, with a large diamond surrounded by nine smaller diamonds set in white gold. Mom would never have been able to wear out those rings, no matter how hard she worked. I had the diamonds set in a new ring and asked the jeweler to create a pendant from the gold in the empty rings. It was a very beautiful design, a graceful arabesque set with one of Mom's small diamonds - a perfect match for my daughter.

I gave the pendant on a silver chain to my daughter just before she moved to Germany. She did not wear it on the plane ride to Frankfort, but carefully placed it in her luggage. By the time she unpacked in Germany, the necklace made from her grandmother's wedding rings had been lost. After an obsessive and repeated search through everything in every piece of luggage she had taken with her, after pulling the seams and shaking, and searching every single molecule of her luggage and all its contents repeatedly, my disappointed daughter had to admit the necklace was gone forever. It was either stolen or lost.

That same luggage traveled to Kansas and back to Germany and around much of Europe in the next couple of years. My son in law was sent to war in Iraq as a door gunner in an Black Hawk helicopter. He was working 18 hours a day, seven days a week on the flight line and flying missions. It was a difficult time for him, and for my daughter worrying about him.

Two and one half years after the necklace had been lost, my phone rang. It was my daughter calling from Germany. In a voice I hardly recognized, she fairly spat "Guess what." It was not even a question. My heart sank as I braced for the worst news possible.

"I found Gram's necklace!"

I was stunned into silence. That she was not calling with news of a helicopter crash was such a relief that I nearly fainted. Then the impossibility of what she was saying registered. Unbelievably, despite the thousands of miles of traveling and moving her household in Germany several times, the lost pendant had appeared as if by magic. She had found it lying on the floor at her feet, in the middle of the room. It could not have been there for very long or it would have been stepped on or vacuumed up. There is absolutely no reason or explanation for how it came to be there. My daughter believes it was a sign from her Grandmother telling her everything was going to be fine. It is as good an explanation as any.

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