When Things Go Missing

Let me tell you a story about when things go missing. I’m not talking about little, day-to-day stuff like you set your keys down on the couch instead of the table, where you always put them, and then after some brief confusion you find them. I mean those times when you are completely baffled by the disappearance. This is a story of one such mystery and the happenings behind it.

Jane was preparing to do a load of laundry and asked if I had any bras that I wanted washed. “Yes,” I replied, “they are in my delicates bag which was sitting right in front of the hamper.”

Now, I should probably take the time to explain how we wash our “delicate” items or the story won’t make much sense to you. One of our loads of laundry is the “delicates” load. That’s when we wash sweaters, dresses, anything that should be washed in cold water, and our bras. Since bras are bad about getting wrapped tightly around other objects or snagging sweaters if the hooks come undone, Jane and I each have a mesh bag that we put our dirty bras in. This also makes it easier for us to extract them from the load and hang them to dry. Now that you are up to speed on our laundering habits, let’s return to the story.

Jane returned from our bathroom and reported that the bag wasn’t there. She checked the hamper and it wasn’t there either. So I began the search for the missing bras. I checked our bathroom, all the hampers, our bedroom, our closet. I stood blankly in the hall. I checked her room and her hamper. I returned to stand blankly in the hall. I checked the hall bathroom and even looked in the boys’ room and checked their hamper. The bag was missing.

Jane didn’t seem particularly concerned. She kept distracting me, asking whether she could go to a movie opening with a friend that night. Exasperated, I finally said, “I’m not going to talk about that movie! Do you understand that at least a hundred or hundred and twenty dollars worth of bras is missing?! We’ve got to find them. Where could they be?”

All of the logical places had been checked. They were not anywhere that anyone who had any business messing with the bag could have put it. That left one likely culprit. Hal.

I started checking cabinets. I looked under his Thomas train table, behind the treadmill, in the play kitchen. I just knew that he had decided to play with it and it could be hours before I finally found it in his pajama drawer or maybe the back of the refrigerator.

Asking Hal if he knew anything about it would be fruitless. The only chance to spark his memory on the matter was to show him what I was looking for. I asked Jane to bring me her bag. She went into her room and after a brief moment, I heard “Oh” and then a brief pause followed by a slightly puzzled quiet question to herself: “This bag had both of our bras in it?”

I entered her room to see her pulling the bag full of dirty bras out of her underwear drawer. Neither of us could figure out what would possess her to pick the bag up from the bathroom floor, assume they were clean, and put them away in her drawer.

Over the next day or two, I mulled over the mystery from time to time. Between the two of us, we eventually figured it out. The previous Saturday, I had anticipated that she would be washing a load of delicates so I put my mesh bag in front of the hamper. Soon after that, I noticed two of her sports bras sitting on my bed. I didn’t know why they were there but assumed they were dirty and she was preparing to wash them. So… I put them in the bag, on top of all of mine.

She didn’t do the load that day. The following day, she was dressing for a volleyball game and called out that she didn’t have any sports bras. I grabbed the bag and walked into her room. Tossing it on her bed, I said, “I guess you’ll just have to wear one of these.” In my mind, it was clear to all involved that they were dirty.

When we returned home from the volleyball game, she saw the bag on her bed with one of her sports bras on top, assumed they were clean, and put them away. Why would she assume they were clean? Simple. The bras are hung to dry in my closet. If she doesn’t promptly collect hers, I often throw her bras back into her bag, which was hanging to dry with them, and then I… toss the bag on her bed. She then sees a bag of bras on her bed and puts them away.

Each of us made reasonable assumptions based on the information at hand, yet our actions alone – no mischievous intervention from a four year old involved – resulted in the bag effectively disappearing.

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Please Wait

Near the end of the fifth grade, I received a copy of the Student Handbook for the Middle School. Being a studious child, I read the entire thing – just to make sure I knew the rules. And in that handbook, I learned about the dress code, which stated that all girls are required to wear… bras!

Now, I needed to wear a bra about as much as my second grade brother, but that hardly mattered a bit! Rules are rules, after all. It never occurred to me that the rule might be there simply to allow selective enforcement with girls that needed to be wearing them but were not. I very calmly approached my mother and told her that I needed some bras. She responded that I did not. I confidently presented the handbook and said, “See! See right here! It clearly states that girls are required to wear bras!” With a rather exasperated tone, she reminded me that I didn’t actually need a bra. I responded that it didn’t matter. I was required to wear them and we needed to go get some so I could practice wearing them. She relented.

Some time later, I told her I wanted to shave. She tried to talk me out of it, saying that once you start shaving, you can’t really stop. You’ll have to shave all the time, even if you get tired of it, which you will. Just wait. Wait a little bit longer. Please… I did not.

Girls are always in such a hurry to grow up, to be woman. My mother should count herself lucky. I was in middle school when I asked to shave. My daughter didn’t ask. I caught her in the shower with my shaving gel spread all over her leg. She was in the third grade. Fortunately, she’s a child that responds well to guilt. I caught her in time and explained in a very stern voice that she was not to try that again without getting permission. Sometime in the fourth grade, I gave in and she began to shave. By fifth, she was asking for… and needing… those dang bras.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised. No, I shouldn’t have been surprised during this first week of sixth grade when she sat down next to me on my bed and asked, “Mommy? Why can’t I wear mascara?” I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I’m not sure a mother is ever really ready for the next step. “Because you are only in the sixth grade.”… “But some of the other girls wear mascara.”… “And others don’t.”… “But why can’t I?”… “Because we haven’t talked about it and I’m not going to make that kind of decision right now. We’ll have to discuss it later.”

That’s what we call a stall tactic. It just delays the inevitable march of time for a bit longer. Because I know that just like my mother’s pleas to wait went unheeded, mine will too. I will eventually give in to this, because really, how can she understand the reason? She won’t understand “because I want you to be my little girl just a little bit longer” until she finds herself in my role. And then, of course, it will be too late.