The Case of the Missing Underwear

“You know,” I said to my husband as we lay in bed this morning, “despite the excruciating headache, yesterday was a pretty good day.”

“Yeah?” he murmured, drowsily enjoying the rare early morning cuddles.

“Yeah. I mean, church was good. I got a nice rest in after. I enjoyed sitting on the couch with Daryl, watching him play Fortnite. We played a game. I made a necklace. Fixed a nice dinner and you made me lunch. We got the bathroom cleaned up – not perfect – but good progress. And you got a lot of laundry put away off your bench.”

“And we found my underwear! I was vindicated!”

I laughed. “Yes, we found your underwear.”

“I can’t believe how full that little red suitcase was,” he continued. “You know those T-shirts that come packed into tiny little little packages? It was like that. I kept unpacking and unpacking. There were 2 1/2 baskets of dirty laundry in there!”

“Well… not quite that much. We got it into one load.”

“But when you think about it. That was from a single weekend trip. And just two of us – not the whole family!”

My husband had spent the week commenting on the fact that he appeared to be missing several pairs of his ‘new’ underwear. I had also noticed that I didn’t appear to have the same backlog in my drawer that I was accustomed to but hadn’t thought much about it.

I had been insisting that his underwear was likely clean and part of the staggering tower of laundry on the bench beside his bed. We had washed all the laundry in the house and not turned up all his underwear. He knew exactly how many pairs he was supposed to have. He was also confident that none of the clothes on the bench was underwear.

So late Sunday evening, just before bed, I was straightening up the bathroom. Having been cajoled by me that the clothes on the bench could still be put away even if his underwear wasn’t there, he was doing just that. I was coming in and out of the bedroom at regular intervals, putting various things away, when I noticed – for the first time since it had been set there, probably – the small, bulging suitcase near the door to our room.

I plopped the suitcase onto the bed and said, “I bet your underwear is in there.”

“The thing about a cluttered house,” I continued, “is that you get to where you don’t even notice stuff that’s out of place.”

“Oh, I noticed it,” he said. “I just thought it was empty and waiting to return to wherever it’s supposed to go.”

I guess he hadn’t noticed the bulge. Or thought to ask where the suitcase is stored. But, hey. At least we found the underwear before he went and bought more!

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Animal Rescue

We left the Bingo Night fundraiser and headed home. Just me and the kids – Daddy had left the fundraiser to work at a different fundraiser. Busy night. Anyway, as we got on the highway, I noticed that we had two bars left on the gas gauge. Ok, might ought to get gas tomorrow some time, I thought.

Right after I passed the last main-part-of-town exit, I was down to one bar. Shoot, I thought. *sigh* Ok, I better take the next exit and drive back to the nearest gas station. It’s not that we live way outside of town. It’s just that I knew come the next morning, I’d be in a hurry and not have time to stop. Maybe I wouldn’t even notice or remember I needed gas.

I pulled up to a pump and Jane called out, “Hey, look! It’s a Looney Tunes Bunny.” I looked where she was pointing and saw a box abandoned next to the next pump over. I was dismayed.

With all the disappointment I could muster, I responded, “A Looney Tunes Bunny? A Looney Tunes Bunny?! That’s not just some Looney Tunes Bunny! That’s Bugs Bunny himself!”

“Well, ok, whatever. He’s a Looney Tunes Bunny.”

Her grandfather is not dead but if he was, he would have just rolled over in his grave. In fact, when he reads this, he might just drop dead and then roll over in his grave. Is Bugs that far out of popular culture?

Before I could take a picture, which had been my plan, Hal had fallen in love with a stuffed pug and the other two were snatching stuff up as well. I looked around and tried to decide what to do. The box wasn’t on its side, like it had fallen out of a truck. It was pushed up against the side of the pump like it had been left there deliberately. The box was open and Bugs was poking his head up out of the top. My initial reaction was that someone, for some reason, had left them there for the taking. And we needed stuffed animals for our VBS preschool program. So we emptied the box.

Hal even found Bugs’s missing ear in the box and reinserted it into his head.

As we drove away, I suddenly felt hollow. Surely those stuffed animals belonged to some little girl. What if her parents had threatened leaving them at the gas station if she didn’t stop doing whatever mischief she was doing. What if she was crying over her lost toys right now? What if her parents were mean and hateful?

Or maybe they had fallen out of a truck and some other kind soul had gathered them up and poked Bugs out of the top of the box to catch the owners’ attention if they returned. Maybe we were foiling someone else’s attempt at kindness. Maybe we were breaking some child’s heart. Some child whose heart would swell with hope when she saw the box and then be crushed with overwhelming sadness when she found it empty.

Or maybe they wouldn’t notice the box was missing until they were too far away. And they’d always just wonder whatever happened to that box of stuffed animals. Whether we were contributing to the child not being reunited with the toys or not, whether they ever would have come back or not, I sensed that there was or soon would be a very unhappy child.

After getting a censorious look from my husband when he got home, I settled on a course of action. I called the gas station to leave my phone number in case someone came looking for the animals. It took a bit of work to get the attendant to understand what I was trying to do. It seems unlikely anyone would come back. I mean, they first have to notice the box is missing and then they have to retrace all their steps, not knowing when it fell out. But still.

Now the gas station attendant thinks I’m crazy and has my first name and phone number. Odds are, he won’t pass the note on to whomever has the shift after him. Odds are, I’ll always feel a little sad and guilty about the little girl and her cute stuffed animals. Even if some other kids will love on them at VBS. And Hal will cherish the pug. And the little girl we are giving the rainbow horse to will love it. And we’ll make sure they all get loving homes. Even if. Guilty and sad and worried, I’ll be.

One of them was still in the car during the photo shoot, but here's most of rescued (or kidnapped?) gang.

One of them was still in the car during the photo shoot, but here’s most of rescued (or kidnapped?) gang.

All Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

It was getting late in the day.  I was exhausted.  My back hurt.  My feet hurt.  I was weak and my stomach was growling so loudly that the neighbors called to ask if we had a new dog.  But I needed to push on.  Our to-do list was long and most of it simply had to be finished that day.

Most of my day had been filled with garage sale prep.  Some families from our Financial Peace University class are having a joint garage sale next weekend.  Since we will be out of town right on through the first day of the sale, we needed to have all of our stuff cleaned, sorted, priced, and delivered to some friends’ house by the end of the day.

I was almost done.  Then I noticed a bag sitting on a chair instead of in a box.  Oh, yeah, I thought.  I have some more bags and purses I was going to put with that.  I almost blew it off.  But, no, might as well get it all.  So I trudged into the laundry room and glanced at the shelf that held the tub full of old purses and bags.  It was underneath the tub stuffed full of gift bags and tissue paper. Oh, man, I thought.  I don’t want to move that heavy tub…  Oh, come on, just finish up.  And with that, I moved the top tub, opened the bottom tub, and extracted a half dozen purses and bags.

Back in the dining room, I opened one purse and dug out all the old receipts and what-not that I had been too lazy to remove when I stopped using it.  I stuck a price sticker on it and set it aside.  I picked up the next one.  One dollar, I thought to myself, noting how small it was.  It was remarkably clean inside.  No papers or other debris.  Check the inner zipper pocket, I told myself.  It looked empty but I stuck my hand in anyway, feeling for anything left behind.  On my last sweep, my fingers hit metal.

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It felt like a ring.  I smiled, wondering what bubble gum machine find I was about to extract.  What memories of brief childhood obsession might flood my mind when I took it out.  And then I looked at what I held in my hand.  I dropped the purse and clutched the ring tightly in both hands.  I looked quickly around the room and felt dazed.  My knees were weak.

I rushed to the front door, bumping boxes on my way out.  I fumbled to open the door because my hands were shaking.  I stumbled out and croaked my husband’s name.  He looked up, not quite alarmed, but concerned.  He told me later that he knew something significant had happened but he couldn’t guess what.

I ran to him.  Failing to slow down, I raised my hands so the one not occupied hit flat on his chest as I crashed into him.  He grasped me in a giant bear hug and asked me what was going on.  I cradled my clinched fist against his chest and pressed my face into his shoulder.

This was the moment.  I was only going to get to tell him once and then the moment would be past.  I wanted to savor it.  I wanted to shout from the mountaintops yet whisper it in his ear yet delay so the moment wouldn’t be over.

Finally, I pulled away and pried open my fingers.  He looked down into my hand.  Looked down at my long lost wedding ring.  And laughed.  He laughed and laughed and hugged me tight with such joy before asking, “Does it still fit?”

I swear my hands shook more than any bride on her wedding day as I gave it a try.  I had to stick my knuckle in my mouth in order to slide the ring past it, but I got it on.  And on it shall stay.

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“I guess I can’t give you a hard time about that anymore,” he said with a smile.

See, that ring was “the story.”  You know, every couple has at least one.  The one that gets trotted out to such great effect.  It usually happened something like this:

Someone would notice our tattoos on our left ring fingers and ask if we got those when we got married.  We would explain that we had gotten them for our 13th wedding anniversary.  And then we’d explain why: because we were always taking our rings off when backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking, etc.  My husband wanted it known that he was married all the time, so why not get tattoos?

Then the someone asking the question would ask another one.  “Well, do you still have your wedding rings?”

I do,” he’d say significantly.  All eyes would then turn to me as I finished the tale.

I’d shift a bit in mock discomfort.  “Well,” I’d say, slightly defensively, “we were going on an outdoor trip.  Three high points and then rock climbing.  I was afraid I’d lose it if I kept taking it on and off.  Or someone might steal the car while it was in there or something.  So I decided to just leave it at home.  But I didn’t want someone to steal it if they broke into the house.  So I hid it.  Really well.  Really well.  We still haven’t found it.”

That was something like seven years ago.  I thought for sure I had tucked it back in a drawer or on one of the shelves in the closet.  But we remodeled the closet and it wasn’t there.  And we sold the dresser and I thoroughly checked it before we let it leave.  We also gutted the bedroom – all the way down to the studs (not looking for the ring – just remodeling).  No ring.

I have insisted all these years that the ring would turn up.  Just like the five year anniversary ring did.  I took that one off while rock climbing indoors and then couldn’t find it.  It was missing for at least a year when we decided to get the tattoos, which were patterned off the anniversary ring.

I woke up the morning after the tattoo and broke out in a cold sweat when I saw my finger.  “Oh, my God!  Oh, my God!  What have I done?  What have I done?  I can’t cover this up!  It’s always visible!  A tattoo on my hand?!  What was I thinking?”

Eventually, I rolled out of bed and, for some reason, went looking for something in the closet.  What I found, in the inner zipper pocket of yet another old purse, was my anniversary ring.  I took it as a sign that the tattoo was not the end of the world after all.

So when I lost the wedding ring shortly thereafter, I told my husband it would turn up.  Just like the anniversary ring.  At first, I wasn’t worried.  I always knew I would find it.  Or maybe I should say that it would find me.  I knew that some day when I least expected it, there it’d be.  Unless I was being pessimistic.  On those days, I would resign myself to the fact that the ring must be gone.  After all, where could it possibly be?

Which brings us to today.  When I came *this close* to selling my ring for a dollar and never, ever, ever knowing what had happened to it… unless the lucky recipient was generous enough to bring it back.

Circumstances then lined up just right that we found ourselves childless at dinner time.  We decided that celebrating the ring was in order.  We chose Chinese food and sat across the table from each other, both staring at the ring.  And I ordered a Strawberry Daiquiri, my drink of choice from our younger days.  And we smiled.  A lot.

Now we just need his Senior class ring to show back up.  Yes, I lost that too.  It probably still has the maroon ribbon on it.  Wherever it is.20140712_202306