Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lost and Found - The Prodigal Photographs

Do you remember the sinking feeling when you've lost an item that is precious to you?

Over the years a number of things have gone missing on me and I'm always surprised that the sinking feeling that follows never loses it's intensity.

In high school my steady boyfriend lost my class ring on a golf course. Unfortunately I'd only worn it for a couple weeks before we exchanged rings and several weeks later it went lost. I often wonder if some hapless golfer found it at the 7th tee.

On our trip to Arkansas in the fall we engaged in our tradition of going to dinner with our friends and celebrating our birthdays. Since we only see this couple once or twice a year, a communal birthday party makes sense. This year my mother was along on the trip with us.

At dinner we exchanged gifts. My friend and I have a long standing tradition of giving pink flamingos to each other and over time it's more of a challenge to find these items. This year she gifted me with pink flamingo slippers in a lovely gift bag. My 80-yr. old mother gave me something very precious. Tucked inside my birthday card was a small collection of old photos. She knew I would treasure these images of my grandmother and her friends. These were strong, independent and highly Bohemian women in a time when this was not the norm.


Also, my mom had included the only known photograph of my maternal great-grandparents.

The handbag I'd brought to dinner was very small and I remember thinking, "I must be careful with these photos." Shortly after this, disaster struck. We left the restaurant, packed up our suitcases and left for home the next morning. When I unpacked the bags I couldn't locate the birthdays cards and the photographs. I literally tore everything apart. There was some paperwork from the architect and some sightseeing and travel brochures but the cards were nowhere to be found.

My mind grasped to recall my actions from the moment I left the dinner table to the time I'd returned home. We had ridden in our friend's van so I called her immediately and asked if she'd check the floor and under the seats. Nothing. I was starting to panic and that heavy feeling was setting in.

I called the restaurant and asked the hostess if anyone had turned in a couple envelopes on Saturday evening. She checked with the management and came up empty. I sat alone in my bedroom imagining a bus boy tossing envelopes in the trash. In my mind the precious images were sitting in a landfill in Hot Springs, Arkansas, lost forever.

I couldn't image any way that these photos could make it back to my hands. What combination of events would need to take place for that to happen? From that my hands.

Several days later my mother called and launched into a conversation about the pictures. I was literally sick to my stomach. I couldn't tell her what had happened and I hoped that she would never ask me to pull them out during one of her visits.

At some point I had to quit projecting my "story" about what had happened to the photos. It was a sad and final outcome. I decided instead to have faith that either the photos were in the hands of someone who would see them as something of value, or that someday I'd find them.

The photos entered the realm of prodigal, and I viewed the entire experience as one of those small tests of faith.

The months passed and occasionally I'd think about the photos and the quick glimpse I'd had of them before I tucked them back in the envelope. The weather cooled and I went to the back of my closet to retrieve the warm, pink flamingo slippers, the gift from my friend. As I pulled them from the gift bag, two envelopes fell out. The prodigal photographs had been home all along. I didn't cry at their discovery but I felt light, as if the heavy weight of my responsibility for their loss had been lifted.

I think we've all had these types of experiences. Have you lost a precious item?


Cindy L said...

Such wonderful old photos. I have been working on altered art projects (for Christmas) using copies of vintage family photos. And I love Bohemian women and their stories -- had a few of them in my family as well! They are fun to talk about. It's funny how we admire them from a distance, in the present ... but I suspect they wouldn't be such a hit with the more conservative members of my family if they were here now...

Heidi said...

Yes, but I rarely find them... How lucky for you - :)

belladella said...

Wonderful story. And thank goodness a happy ending. I love old family photos and I know how precious they are.

Jenni said...

Oh goodness! I'm glad you found them!

A relative sent me some things that had belonged to my dad. Among them was an inexpensive ID bracelet that he must have worn when he was a very young boy. I gave it to my son who is named (middle name) after my dad. He treasured it and wore it often. The clasp must have broken when we were in the store one day. Ds realized when we got back out to the car that his bracelet was gone. We retraced all our steps and asked the manager to post a note asking employees to keep an eye out for it. We never found it.

dara said...

two years ago I agreed to step in and take the place of the Day Camp director who had been in charge for YEARS. I vividly remember her telling me that "these boxes contain EVERYTHING about camp" I then thought they were put in the back of my car along with the recycling from camp. I had my husband take the recycling to the dumpsters because I was so tired at the end of camp. Months later I wanted to look in the boxes and, you guessed it, they were gone. I was beside myself with that sick feeling that I was trusted with important stuff and my husband tossed it away. I didn't have the heart to tell the former director what has happened.
Fast forward to the beginning of camp this past year - I go to her house to get the camp supplies, and to my amazement, she had the boxes. She told me that there wasn't room in my car that day so she kept them with the rest of the camp stuff. I confessed to her at that point what I had thought and had a good laugh. I then had to confess to my husband that he did not pitch the boxes.
It is a horrible feeling to have lost something important, but that feeling of relief is so sweet when it is found.

Joanna said...

It seems I am forever doing that to myself. I'll be in a hurry and think - let me stick this in a safe place until I can get back to it - and then it takes days to figure out the secret spot.

Susan said...

As I was reading, I just got sick to my stomach. I know that feeling. I am so thankful you found those pictures.

I remember 8 or 9 years after my parents gave me a beautiful watch with small diamonds for my high school graduation, I lost it. I was at a fair and it either slipped into a trash bin as I was throwing wrappers in it or it was stolen off my wrist. I tend to hope it was the former as I still have faith in mankind and the kindness of people.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

My heart was in my throat through your entire story!

Yes, my first beloved lost my class ring, too. Actually, it was stolen from him while he was stationed in Germany. I still miss my class ring. ;>

My friend lost the first professional photographs taken of her grandcchildren. She scoured the house finally praying and asking for help. Help came in the form of "They're gone, stop looking."

So I am thrilled for you that you found your photos and that you didn't even weep at their recovery. It's okay, I wept for you.

Rue said...

Hi Suzanne :)

That happens to me a lot actually, but one specific thing has always bothered me.

I won 1st place, for the first time out of many horse shows, and my mom gave me a gold ring to commemorate the event. After wearing it proudly for years, I lost it down a rain gutter because I had been playing with it on my finger. I. was. devastated. I feel like an idiot every time I think about it.

Now I'm sad... thanks! LOL


Dejoni said...

What a happy ending!
I love old photographs too.

Tom and Cindy said...

How wonderful to finally find the photos! I am sure your heart leaped. I have been following your blog for some time. Today is Blog Comment Day. How appropriate that I was able to post today.
Thanks for sharing
I hope your day is perfect

Anonymous said...

diamond earrings I'd hidden in some potpourri and forgotten about. Dumped the potpourri out its' bowl into the garbage a few months later. Heard a clang and thought nothing of it...until three weeks later. Also had a baby photo of me with first dog. Lost it, couldn't find it..meant a lot. It was hiding under another photo in the album.

Mary said...

Oh what a wonderful gift. I'm so glad you "found" them!

Anonymous said...

......when found, items are even
MORE PRECIOUS than originally!

Two years ago my husband and I traveled 3 states away to my Sister and BIL's

Took a 36 ct. roll of 35mm. pictures! Got home and NO CAMERA!

Checked every place possible. Called the motel, no camera was turned in.

I was SICK to my stomach.
My husband was washing the car, vacuuming out the inside and stuck his hand in the large pocket on the back of the passenger seat!

Prayers answered! :-)

Kim said...

Yes, what a wonderful feeling to find them again.

I had a situation some years ago, when during a trip back to Australia (I'm an Aussie who was living in the USA at the time), I was able to get some photos of my grandmother. I had them developed and sent them back to the US (because I was staying in Oz for a couple of months visiting), but they never turned up as expected.

My grandmother passed away during that time I was back there and I was really sad not to have those photos -- well, lo and behold, they turned up almost 2 years later. Who knows what happened, but I was just so happy to get them. Wonderful to have them now.

cathycan said...

My husband got me a "diamond" solitaire a few years back. It was very realistic looking, princess cut, 1 carat in a very nice heavy simple gold setting...yes, the gold was real. After a particularly bad fight, I saw the ring on my jewelry shelf. In my anger, that ring represented a lot of disappointments,down-right lies and everything wrong with our marriage. I think I "lost" it. I remember thinking that I hated the ring, how I could mistakingly throw it out with some trash or accidently drop it and find it years later in the back of my closet. I must have chosen plan
A, because now I can't find it. Was I really that stupid? In a moment of raw emotion did I actually throw away a couple ounces of gold , worth hundreds of dollars an ounce!? Live and learn

Anonymous said...

Oh yes... I lost a sweet necklace from years ago... my parents had given it to me when I was in my teens... I have moved so many times over the years that it most likely just ended up in a lost box somewhere. I also lost my personal diary from when I was age 14. *pouts.

Shirley from California said...

we could be sisters-and I also have lupus...we went to Las Vegas and I had packed my favorite jewlry-costume but my favorites and one really good set of earrings. we came home and I could never find my bags of jewlry- it was awful until I needed our suitcase again - months later and there it was in a hidden compartment. I had to call everyone (I thought the Hotel had taken it - bad girl)I get that misplacing things TOTALLY. Thank you for the great stories.