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When Something is Missing

This is how I feel when I lose something or misplace something.

The world suddenly shifts, and instead of orbiting the sun, my mind begins rotating around that object.  It starts casting light on everything else in my path, pretty much blinding me until my sole focus is the missing object.  Even when the missing object is something as inconsequential as a button.

Okay, maybe not a button.

Actually, yes, I’ve probably reacted this way to a button.  But only after I convinced myself that this button was extra special and irreplaceable.

This happened last Monday morning.  We were completely on-time to get to shul, and I went to grab my black dress purse.  I own two tiny fabric purses — one black and one white — that I purchased at least 12 years ago.  They’ve had a good run.  My sister got me two new purses a few years ago that I love (red casual dressy and black so fancy) so I’ve been using these dress purses less and less, but I needed the black one Monday morning because I needed a simple, cloth, dressy purse to serve as a tampon holder.

I store fancy purses and hats in an armoire in the ChickieNob’s room.  I opened the door and there was the white purse, the red purse, and the fancy black purse… but no tiny black fabric purse.  Which was odd.  I started shifting things around, expecting it to pop up from under a sweater, and it wasn’t there.  So I started to take things out of the armoire, place them on the ChickieNob’s bed, comb through the contents of the armoire — even shelves where I would have never in a trillion years placed a dress purse — and I couldn’t find this purse.  I turned out the lights in the room and repeated the search with a flashlight, believing that sometimes you see things differently when you change the light source (stop snickering… this has worked on other occasions).

At this point, we were now late, but I was immobilized in choosing a plan B because I couldn’t stop focusing on the fact that I didn’t know where the tiny black fabric purse was.  Was it even in the house?  When did I last use it?

I was supposed to be shifting my focus to coming up with a plan B so we could leave the house, but I couldn’t untangle myself from the tiny black fabric purse’s pull.  I couldn’t use the white purse because I was wearing black shoes (I think the last time I used black tiny was at a rehearsal dinner for a wedding this summer), and I couldn’t use the fancy black purse because it was too fancy for day time (No, I used a different purse because I remember needing a tampon there and checking a side pouch for one, and black tiny doesn’t have zippered side pouches), and I couldn’t use a ziplock bag because that would just be odd (Was it at our friend’s kid’s Bat Mitzvah?  Was that last year?  It had to be last year.  Have I not used this purse in a full year?), so I had no plan B.

In which Josh told the kids to get their shoes on and told me to get a plan B, reminding me that we’re talking about a purse.

The rational side of my brain told me that (1) it was just a purse and I could use my regular, every day purse and the earth would still turn, (2) I tend to be somewhat invisible, so it was unlikely that anyone would even notice my purse much less me, (3) I could look for it later, (4) the purse probably cost about $15 and it had a good run, so if I never saw it again, life would go on.  The irrational side of my brain screamed over the quieter rational side of my brain that MY PURSE WAS MISSING!

I ended up taking a purse with a broken handle, held together with a safety pin.  Why did I opt for this one?  I have no idea.  It should have gone in the rubbish bin years ago, and yet here I was, taking it out to be the first purse of the new year.

As we drove to Rosh Hashanah services, I continued to obsess.  I wore a red necklace to the wedding.  Had that gotten back home or was that missing too?  I own one tube of lipstick — Rum Raisin by Bobbi Brown — and it usually gets carried to occasions when I’d use said black purse.  Was that in the house, or had I left it behind at an event along with black tiny?

The second I got home, I returned to searching for the purse, looking in absolutely ridiculous places (under the bathroom sink) and not-so-ridiculous places (under the ChickieNob’s bed).  I asked the ChickieNob if she and her friends had borrowed it for a game.  I looked in my desk, my sock drawer, inside other purses.  Black tiny was still missing.

I wished I could mentally move on.

I knew that after enough time passed, and something else got lost, my brain would release black tiny and start orbiting around the new missing object.  The new lost item that would occupy by brain didn’t even have to be one of my things.  It could be one of Josh’s things, or the twins’ things (the ChickieNob long lost interest in looking for her missing doll whereas I took apart the whole house until we found it), or any of my family member’s things.  Tell me that you’ve misplaced your keys, and I will started looking at plane fares so I can come there and help you look.  I hate the idea of not knowing where something is.

I wished I could find the attitude of “easy come, easy go,” especially when it came to objects with no sentimental or monetary value.  I had the means to get a new purse, and while I liked the one I had, there was nothing special about it.  The white one was the one I took to my wedding.  The black one had just gone to a bunch of random parties.  It wasn’t an expensive purse; losing the object didn’t translate into losing a lot of money.

And yet, I couldn’t help but think that my obsessive nature surrounding lost objects tied in somehow to missing not-yet children, ghostly remnants to lost life plans.  Perhaps when it always feels as if someone is missing from the room, it intensifies the reaction to something missing, no matter how small, like new skin rubbed raw by even gentle contact.


On the day before Great-Grandma died, the twins and I went to the mall to pick up winter pants, and while we were there, we swung through the handbag section at a department store.  The Wolvog, ever helpful, was pointing out various black purses, but none were like black tiny (especially not the one that inexplicably had a huge bronze fox head sticking out of the front of it like a hunting prize).  “It can’t have any leather on it,” I explained, because I use the purse on Yom Kippur, and on that holiday, you cannot wear or carry leather.  Black tiny, in all of its cheapness, was made entirely of fabric.  I gave up after about three minutes, my heart not really into the idea of purse shopping.

The next morning, we got the call that Great-Grandma was gone, and after everyone left the house, I went upstairs with my coffee and took apart the armoire again.  I took out these tiny figurines my mother gave to me after the twins were born, a little tangible reminder of a wish I made during my first injectibles cycle.  I took out the piggy banks my grandmother painted for the twins in one of the art workshops at her nursing home.  I took out our painting outfits — the clothes the four of us wear when we go do messy community service projects that involve house painting, — a velvet top, a half-finished scarf I’ve been making for the Wolvog for years, my maternity clothes.  It’s an armoire I rarely enter unless it’s to grab the sheets on the lowest shelf.  It contains everything I don’t want to look at on a regular basis.

And there, somehow tucked in the middle of a pile of clothes, with no explanation of how it got wedge between items that haven’t been moved in years, was black tiny.  There was no fanfare, no huge sigh, no angels singing hallelujah as I finally got closure with the find.  I just held it for a moment and thought the words “of course,” and then repacked the wardrobe, leaving out black tiny for the funeral.


1 lostintranslation { 09.23.12 at 9:02 am }

Oh, I know exactly what you mean! I do this too – I’ve been searching for pacifiers and toys – and one time even some i.kea hooks that we bought when still living in the US, but I wanted to use in our apartment in France and I was sure that we still had them – all through the house, quizzing our toddler (he did sometimes lead me to unexpected places where he had hidden the item, but more often than not he has no idea where it is, and he will look at me like ‘mommy, what are you talking about?’). I will keep going ’round and ’round, opening drawers, looking under armoires, all the while saying “I can’t stand that [item x] is missing”. I just cannot stop until I’ve found the lost item. Sometimes I have to give up though, but every now and then I will think about said item and wonder that if I ever have the time to really turn the apartment upside down (and give it a good cleaning at the same time), I will find it…

Glad you found black tiny again.

2 Amanda { 09.23.12 at 9:10 am }

I really love this post. So happy you found black tiny!

3 Annalee { 09.23.12 at 9:12 am }

Stopping in from ICLW… I love your metaphor – “ghostly remnants to lost life plans”. With Maya always missing, and it being to blatantly obvious that she is not here as her nursery sits untouched, I find myself needing to know where everything is and fixate on remembering significant life events down to the most specific details. I’m glad you found your purse 🙂

4 Ana { 09.23.12 at 12:52 pm }

Wow. I thought I was the only one. Seriously, my mind cannot rest until I’ve found it. From cheap costume jewelery to, for real, a missing puzzle piece from the kids’ toys. Something about the not knowing, the missing-ness just makes me so so anxious & unsettled.

5 AP2B { 09.23.12 at 1:24 pm }

For a moment there I thought I was going to have to come help you find black tiny…

6 Mary { 09.23.12 at 1:27 pm }

This post made me sob, because just yesterday I was at a birthday party for my nephew, and he got a metal detector. Everyone was joking about what valuables he might find, and all I could think about was my engagement/wedding rings which were taken off a scrub sink when my son was in the NICU. I looked everywhere, tore through three bags of garbage and used paper towels. I went to see hospital security and demanded to know why they didn’t have cameras in the scrub room. And I kept checking the small change pocket of my jeans, where I would ordinarily have tucked them while washing up to see Ben.

I never found my rings, and it’s likely they were snatched by the next people who washed up at that sink. It’s a public hospital in a big city, and a lot of the babies in the NICU were born drug-addicted. But I still couldn’t believe that someone would take my ring when they knew I had a baby in peril. It just seemed so cruel that I still believe, on some level, that I lost it somewhere and that I’ll find it.

In the grand scheme of my life at that time, given how close I came to losing my own life, and to losing my son, i am grateful it was the rings that were lost. But I still feel panicky when I look at my finger and don’t see that ring. And I still check that tiny pocket every time I put on a pair of jeans.

Sorry for the long comment. This post just really resonated with me.

7 It Is What It Is { 09.23.12 at 2:25 pm }

OMG, I am so this way, too. The most recent example was with my wedding band, a thin, white gold band. The fire department had to saw it off my finger during my pregnancy with my son (5 1/2+ years ago) and I remember getting it repaired sometime after he was born (my husband had it engraved, in Italian, on the inside with “You possess my heart” and I had to have that recreated, too). I remember picking it up and promptly never saw it again (I have a diamond eternity band that I was wearing instead so must have put my actual wedding band away for ‘safe keeping’). During this time, in preparation for our move, I went through every piece of jewelry I had, earmarking some for future sale, putting some away for my god-daughter, and organizing the rest. It occurred to me that I never saw my band, so after our move, I went on the hunt for it. I bought a jewelry armoire and literally touched every piece of jewelry I owned moving things into the armoire thinking it would turn up. When it didn’t, I went through every purse in my closet (since maybe, after picking it up from jewelry repair, it never made it out of my bag), but since I hadn’t seen it in 4 years, at least, I had no idea which bag it might be in. Regardless, I got up on a step stool and looked through every bag and every cranny in the closet where it could be. I searched my son’s bathroom (why not?), our bathroom, our night stands, the laundry room, the kitchen drawers, the side board. It was no where.

I was hell bent on finding it as I don’t lose things! I probably returned to search those very same purses another half a dozen times over the next month, willing the ring to appear.

I posted to my Facebook wall and many friends prayed to St. Anthony for me. I was obsessed with finding it, but really, where else to look?

Finally, one day when I was home alone, I completely took my closet apart, searching pockets of jackets and jeans on an off chance. I got up on the step stool again and unloaded every purse I owned to my bed and went through each, AGAIN. And, there, in a red purse I probably haven’t used in 4 years, in a tiny inside pocket that I could only wedge two fingers into, was this small, Tiffany ring bag (the ring wasn’t Tiffany, but I liked to store things in some of the bags that some silver Tiffany jewelery came in). And I knew, before even opening the flap, that my ring was there. And it was. And I am telling you, save the one time my son when missing for 8 minutes (http://itiswhatitisorisit.net/?p=2303), I have never been more relieved to find something in my life. It set my world right because it is really the only piece of jewelry I’ve assigned sentimental value to (that, and a diamond “H” pendant my husband gave me as a push present (although, with a c-section, there was no pushing involved)).

Finding things, any thing, is a great gift.

8 serenity { 09.23.12 at 2:27 pm }

“And yet, I couldn’t help but think that my obsessive nature surrounding lost objects tied in somehow to missing not-yet children, ghostly remnants to lost life plans. Perhaps when it always feels as if someone is missing from the room, it intensifies the reaction to something missing, no matter how small, like new skin rubbed raw by even gentle contact.”

That’s when a thing – an inanimate object- becomes something more. It wasn’t about the purse. It was what the purse represented.

I am so happy you found it.


9 kateanon { 09.23.12 at 3:12 pm }

Oh, I will not sleep for days trying to locate said thing, like I cannot function at all until I find it. Once or twice, I have not found the item, and it still haunts me years later.

10 Betty M { 09.23.12 at 3:33 pm }

I am glad I am not the only one who does this. It drives my family bonkers – some say my obsession with these minute things is what I do to avoid thinking about the big things.

11 jjiraffe { 09.23.12 at 3:58 pm }

This may be my favorite of all your posts I’ve read. (Well, except the Tooth Fairy post.) Astonishing writing.

12 StylinMom { 09.23.12 at 5:29 pm }

I am SO SO like this, I will obsess and obsess….it is crazy! However I do think that lots of the time it isn’t about the object it is about what the object means to me. So glad you found it and what perfect timing!

13 Esperanza { 09.23.12 at 5:34 pm }

I lose things ALL THE TIME. And when I get into that “I’m looking for something” mindset it is SO HARD to stop. Even days after I’ve been through a really intense “I can’t find X” kind of day, I’ll randomly open weird cabinets or boxes, rummaging through them and after a few minutes I’ll be like, What am I even looking for? But I’m not looking for anything, my mind just thinks that I am. It can take a whole week for that feeling to finally fade away and if it’s something I never find, it can last for a month or longer.

I HATE being in that mindset.

I wonder if maybe I get in that mindset with wanting another child. I thought at this point in my life that I’d have another baby, or at least be noticeably pregnant, planning for one. But I’m not pregnant and there is no other baby, and I do feel like something is perpetually missing, and it drives me crazy that I don’t know when I’ll find it, or if I even ever will.

And even if I do find that missing part of my family, it will always look so different than what I had imagined it would. And I need to remember that grieving that “would-be-family-of-my-dreams” needs to happen for me to move on. I’m actually going to write a post about that next week.

But truly, I lose A LOT of things. I have always said that I hope, instead of a white, peaceful light at the end of my life, I can really quick see where every single one of the things I lost went because sometimes, wondering where that stuff could have gone drives me totally crazy.

14 Kristin { 09.23.12 at 6:01 pm }

I love the post and the evocative language it uses. I’m not that obsessive about lost items but there are many other things I obsess about.

15 Cristy { 09.23.12 at 6:36 pm }

I hate losing things. It adds an element of chaos and makes me question where my brain is at during various point when I *remember* having the object. Invariably, I either locate the object or spend a vast amount of time mentally retracing my steps in hopes of finding it. Then there are the “of course” moments, where I do finally locate the object. Sometimes it all comes together, others it just adds to the confusion.

In a lot of ways, this post represents all types of loss. We mental retrace our steps during those times, plotting out the ‘what ifs’ the whole way.

16 a { 09.23.12 at 9:37 pm }

Maybe you’re on to something there – I rarely lost things in my before life, and now I can lose things in 5 minutes after putting them in my purse. (This happened to me at the bank a few months ago. I cashed a fairly large check, put the money in my purse, and then proceeded to lose it for over 5 minutes, which felt like 5 eternities.)

I hate losing things and obsess about them. You’re not the only one. But next time I lose something, I’m definitely emailing you to tell you to come!

17 persnickety { 09.23.12 at 9:59 pm }

Oh yes, that sounds familiar. It is not always physical objects either. At some point over the weekend Google decided my project 365 blogspot blog was experiencing suspicious activity and shut it down.
We just put a VPN in. I was at my mum’s at the time and my husband was coping with a work meltdown over the phone. but i was obsessing for the next 2 hours about it, and the drive home. For a blog of pictures that I am a month behind on.

18 Chickenpig { 09.23.12 at 11:01 pm }

I hate losing things. The thing I find interesting is that you found black tiny among so many evocative objects and that it was there for no apparent reason. I was looking for something in the same way years ago, and I found a note that was written to my sister by me grandmother decades ago when my sister was going through a tough time. It was within a couple of days of the date the note was written…my sister’s birthday…and the note was in my husband’s desk drawer. I have no idea what it was doing there, or why I was looking for my lost whatever it was. I just know that I was supposed to find that note and call my sister and say “Grandma is thinking of you.” Look closely at those armoire objects…very carefully.

19 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 09.24.12 at 12:17 am }

Yes, I find I can let things go more easily when everything else is “in place” in life. When something or someone is missing then every other loss (even temporary or inconsequential ones) seem so much more important. Like a sort of seeking behaviour permanently and indiscriminantly switched on.

I’m glad you found the purse, but again so sorry you had a funeral to attend this week.

20 Mali { 09.24.12 at 1:30 am }

Hmmm. Am I in a minority here? As long as the lost thing is not absolutely essential (I’m thinking iPad and laptop here), I don’t go crazy looking for it. Don’t get me wrong, it frustrates me not to know where something is, and I will turn things upside down when I do start looking. But if I can’t find it where I expect to find it, then I find that leaving it for a few hours or days actually helps. Your brain works on problems in your subconcious (rather than driving you mad, consciously), and solves those problems. It’s another version of not remembering a word or a name or something, shrugging and giving up, and then three hours later when you’re thinking about somethiing completely different, the name comes to you. Lost items turn up that way too. I’ll often remember where it might be, or get a nagging feeling that I need to look in X place even though I always keep it in Y, and lo and behold, there it is in X . The most dangerous thing to do is say “it normally goes in X, but I’m going to put it in Y so I remember it’s there.” That NEVER works!

21 Tiara { 09.24.12 at 12:35 pm }

You are not alone. I am still looking for a purse I want to believe I put away somewhere “safe” but am afraid actually went out with some bags of donated clothes. Without knowing for sure, I have to continue to search…it’s been at least 1 1/2 years…

I’m sorry again about Great-Grandma.

22 Daryl { 09.24.12 at 10:33 pm }

Isn’t this why we all blog? To publicly obsess over the things we’ve lost. No? Just me?

23 Elizabeth { 09.25.12 at 11:32 am }

I HATE not being able to find things.

Much love to you as you remember and grieve Great-Grandma.

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