lost and found
Last Tuesday, I dropped my son off at school, crawled back into bed to nurse a minor headache, and, once the pain was dull enough that my jittery brain could justify getting a move on, vowed to have both a leisurely and a productive day. I biked uphill (just because you can’t observe the increasing grade with the naked eye, doesn’t mean it’s not there people) to what my husband and I refer to as “The Aspirational Grocery Store,” in a shopping district that is also aspirational, if you are aspiring to be rich, liberal, White, and mostly over 65, and got myself a decaf mocha (leisure!). I sauntered down to the bookstore (leisure!) to pick up some books for my friend and her kiddos, who were stricken down by the ‘rona, as well as a book (The Art of Memoir) recommended to me by my sister-in-law, and an impulsively purchased journal called Moon Lists for myself (leisurely productivity?). Somewhere between the bookstore, the Korean restaurant where I picked up lunch for said stricken friend, plus our other friend from whence the ‘rona came, and the ensuing events of the rest of the day, I lost my prescription sunglasses.
They were not in any of my nine purses, or the dozen tote bags that fill out our family rotation. They were not on the doorstep of the home of either friend, where I had tentatively placed their tofu soup and prayed to Saint Fauci that it would shephard their bodies towards a negative antigen test on day five (it did not; five days is a lie). They were not at the Korean restaurant, in the box by our back door where we have vowed to place all essential items. Not in a coat or a jacket (for once, in the processing of checking pockets, I agree with my husband that I might have too many coats). Not, as far as I can tell, buried amongst the endless detritus that my three-year-old daughter finds essential to her existence (she does squirrel things away, but when asked, she usually knows exactly where they are - “Mo, have you seen the car keys? “Yeeeeeees (eye roll indicating she has seen much more of the world than she has). They’re in my unicorn slippers!”).
Sunglasses are top five “shit people lose all the damn time.” If this were a Family Feud category, which I’d bet $1000 Bluey “dollar-bucks” it has been a thousand times, sunglasses would be up there with socks, keys, wallets, umbrellas, and something cheeky that stumps the family’s adorable mom, like “my mind.” Losing sunglasses isn’t that big a deal, though losing sunglasses that were made to correct for your rapidly deteriorating vision, and were priced accordingly, is a qualified bummer. But more than wanting to find my sunglasses (it frightens me how close I am to walking into Walgreens and buying those things that fully cover your regular glasses, like my great Aunt Margaret, who did always looked fly in them), it’s killing me that I don’t know what happened to them. They’re here, on this planet, just like you and me. They might even be so close that they can smell my longing. But it doesn’t matter. I can’t find them. They are no longer of my world.
In my new Moon Lists book, I am on a page cataloguing the last month of my life, where I am being asked to answer questions about Story, Connection, Other Worlds, Abundance, Nature, Minor Secrets (really into this one), my current Culture List, and Loss. “What was lost? What are you mourning?” my moon friend asks me. “Maybe it is minor.” I recorded the loss of my sunglasses, for herstory’s sake. My son, who just turned six last week, and is shedding the last layers of babyhood, seemingly more everyday, crept up on my moon-listing the other night at a time when every other child his age was surely sleeping. He shared that he recently lost his mood ring (which only told him he was happy). His encounter with nature, he said, was finding “about four ungrown egg cones, um..I mean…PINE cones.” (self-correction of endearing use of un-words! loss of babyhood!). Of course I cannot tell you his minor secret, but I can assure you it was real juicy.
People with ADHD like myself are pathological losers. We lose things all the time. So does everyone, sure, but the extensive and at-times artful ways in which ADHDers misplace things is a topic of much discussion and empathy in my ADHD circles. The sunglasses are too obvious to be worth mentioning. It’s a miracle that I kept them this long. My children told me this morning that I am very good at losing things, but also very good at finding them. Like some ADHDers, I have a very visual memory, and often I will know for certain the insane but exact location of something I have misplaced (“The keys are in my underwear drawer! I put them there because I knew I would open it in the morning!”). In my mind, these things are not, in fact, lost, just waiting for me to become the person who would discover them.
I seem, in the past several weeks, to have forgotten how to write. Not so long ago, I was brimming with ideas, only lamenting that I didn’t have enough time to see each of them through. Now, I blow through a few sentences on a topic and my mind shuts off completely. Blank. Even reading, especially on topics I thought I cared about when I was thinking and writing more fluidly, feels too tender. I have put down a string of very good books, and, having located my collection of Jane Austen novels. I have been working through them one by one, starting with Persuasion, my favorite, and am completely delighted, and completely satisfied with imagining a life for myself that consists of cycling through these novels again and again, without even the need to express to others my experience of reading them, just being quietly pleased.
I am not so settled in my identity as a writer to think that my drive will return. Maybe I have already said everything I need to say, and I don’t have the audacity to repeat myself. And really, how could any reader want anything more when there is Austen?
Some things, this month, are oddly finding their way to me. After writing in my newsletter, talking in many friendship circles, and dropping hints to my family that I was in desperate need of one of those fancy mugs that keep your coffee hot so you don’t have to constantly microwave it and also forget it’s in the microwave, a strange box arrived on my doorstep. It was addressed to my mother-in-law, who was keeping the apartment upstairs, but when she came to visit a few weeks later, we realized there was another address sticker, to another Susan, in another part of Oakland, on another part of the box. It was clearly meant for that Susan, but we couldn’t contact her, and it had been so long that we were sure she had gotten a replacement from the shipping company, and that showing up on her doorstep with the package would be overkill.
We opened the box. It was one of those fancy mugs that keep your coffee hot so you don’t have to constantly microwave it and also forget it’s in the microwave. As my mother would say, kismet.
A few days after I became the defacto owner of the mug of destiny, another copy of The Art of Memoir showed up in the mail. And a few days after that, another box, this time clearly addressed to me and not a single Susan, that looks suspiciously like the first one. It was another mug, this one in a color that could only have been selected by someone who knew me really, really well.
I’ve solved those mysteries (thank you Kate, and my Ladies Making Shit!). But my sunglasses may be a lost cause. Last night, I turned off the endless lights in our apartment, shut off all the audiobooks playing to sleeping children, solemnly conducted my intricate daily facial-oils routine, which is very expensive and maybe effective and probably the most disciplined I have even been about anything. I was looking forward to getting under the covers with my electric heat pad and Sense & Sensibility, which I’d left the night before right at the scene where Elinor and Marianne have run into Willoughby at some boring party (when reading Austen, I often doze off fantasizing about attending one of these boring parties, but without a corset and with much better food), and he acts all whatevs to Marianne, and she like, basically dies, but I couldn’t find my book anywhere. I ransacked the house for a good 20 minutes before I gave in, disappointed with myself and furious with a universe that thinks it can appear and disappear my possessions and creative outlets willy-nilly, as if the things I love and rely are on are as plentiful as ungrown egg cones in a field of egg cone trees.
Soon, I will get a pair of cheap Rashida Jones sunglasses that dig into my nose-parts or slide off my face when I bend down. Soon I will have an idea. Soon, hopefully today, I will find my book tucked away lovingly in my daughter’s play diner set, between the tiny coffee pot and the wooden block that I’m pretty sure is a pork chop. Or perhaps I will find it tucked away lovingly in the place I’ve forgotten I left it, for my future self, as a gift.
What have you lost this month? What are you mourning? Maybe it is minor…
The past few months have seen some great conversations around good mothers and bad mothers on film, narratives around mothers who leave, and what mothers can and should be forgiven for.
But in all of these rich discussions, I have not seen one mention of the ultimate cinematic maternal abandonment, that of a little lady named Kate McCallister, played by the untouchable Catherine O’Hara, in the timeless 1990 dramedy Home Alone.
I highly recommend watching this movie with your children when they are of age (for us this turned out to be six). I have never heard my kid laugh like that. But oh! To be seen in the way John Hughes sees Mrs. McCallister, who is completely forgiven by everyone, including herself, for leaving the country without one of her children (I’d like to mention here that she is also the only one who remembers, and seemingly, cares), during which time he gets hung up on a nail by criminals who promise to torture him. My kid was convinced that the mom was going to get got by some remaining booby traps when she got back, but that’s not what happens. She apologizes, gives him a hug, he’s like “it’s cool,” then they all go in the kitchen to have a glass of milk. Mothers are people too.
I truly hope you have more things to say, because I enjoy your thoughts greatly! Austen is not enough. Thank you Sarah!
Sarah, you sure haven't lost any of your wonderful writing style and thoughtful insights! Keep them flowing because they are a lifeline to sanity for dedicated readers like me. And how could we survive without the immortal Jane Austen? It's incredibly inspiring and uplifting to be assured that she remains a source of wisdom for us all in the 21st century. Thank you both from this aging grandfather, Dennis