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The miracle of losing (and finding) my most cherished possession
On a Saturday morning in February, the morning light seeped through my French doors and filled me with dread. I awoke and remembered that I’d lost my most cherished possession in the world. It was gone.
The previous night I stood in a crowd of people dancing and clapping along to Twin Shadow at Empire Garage in downtown Austin. It was a great show, only the second concert I’d been to since the start of the pandemic. Suddenly, I noticed—felt with my entire being—that my ring was gone. My grandmother’s ring.
My grandma Betty was a third parent when I was growing up. I loved spending weekends at her and my Grandpa Chuck’s home in Bellflower, California getting absolutely spoiled. Mornings were spent watching “our favorite show” (as my Grandma would say), Rugrats. I sat in Grandma’s brown corduroy La-Z Boy, reclined with my little feet up, while Grandma served me waffles slathered in peanut butter and syrup. I still eat them that way to this day.
In the afternoons I’d play pinball and Minesweeper for hours on my Grandpa’s computer, or the duck shooting game I only got to play on the Super Nintendo at Grandma’s house, since I wasn’t allowed one at home. At night Grandma would let me rub her feet with her fancy lotions, then I’d crawl into bed in the middle of Grandma and Grandpa and throw my right leg over Grandma’s body. Grandma was my first body pillow, a kind of comfort I can still feel in my bones. Nowadays I only get to lie this way with lovers—no physical position could make me feel more held.
Grandma’s small backyard was a paradise, with a swing set and a gorgeous rose garden filled with Double Delights, her favorite variety. (My sister has a tattoo of these on her foot.) In the front yard I’d pick mint sprigs to chew on, inspect the giant spiders living in the shrubs, and catch moths by the wings, their golden dust rubbing off onto my fingertips. I’d bike to the end of the block and back, over and over and over.
I loved spending time there so much that when the family gathered at Grandma’s house every year on Christmas Day—confronted with a giant pile of gifts in front of a tinseled tree, and Grandma’s magical winter village complete with moving ice skaters, tethered to a mirrored frozen lake by magnets—I’d beg my parents to stay the night. My mom would eventually relent, even though she’d rather not be without her child on Christmas, or make the hour round-trip drive to pick me up the next day. I always wanted more time with Grandma.
As I grew older, I sensed my Grandma’s mortality. In adolescence, I started crying when she would leave my house. I worried about when she would die, knowing how much I would miss her. I prayed for her to live until I was older.
Even though Betty had her first heart attack in her fifties, she did live until I was 20 years old. She died of a heart attack, quietly slumping over in her chair at home, on January 1, 2009. She was 76. I was by grandmother’s side at the hospital before she died. I held her soft hands, kissed her forehead, and felt her hair that I’d brushed so many times. That night, after she passed, I went home with my Grandpa and slept on his couch. I remember peeling my heavy eyes open the next morning and hearing his voice as tears started to gently roll down my cheeks. I spoke at her funeral, remembering how much my grandma loved to dance, how she was the best whistler I’d ever known, sending clear, comforting notes of “Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot” through the air.
A week later, I left for a semester abroad. While I was gone, my mother and sister went through some of my grandmother’s things, and my sister saved a ring for me. It was gold, delicate, with an intricate latticed pattern that looked a bit like a four-leaf clover.
I adored it instantly; it had such a grand, vintage look. My grandma wore it on a chain as a necklace, so it had lived near her heart. I slipped it onto the middle finger of my left hand and almost never took it off.
People noticed its uniqueness and complimented me on it constantly, which I loved because every time I got to say, “Thank you—it was my grandmother’s.”
That February night at the Twin Shadow concert, I felt the ring leave me. I didn’t physically feel it fly off—which probably happened when I was clapping along to the music—but I felt something shift, and it filled me with dread. My talisman was gone, and it called to me.
I felt my naked left middle finger with my thumb, racking my brain to be sure if I had been wearing the ring that night or not. I went on a run a couple nights before and took it off—had I left it at home since then?
I quickly started searching the floor near my feet as the neon concert lights faded in and out. I couldn’t see anything. I kept calm. “It’s at home. You must have left it at home,” I kept telling myself.
When the concert ended and the venue cleared, I turned on my phone light and looked all over the place, and had my friend do the same, but I didn’t see anything. “It’s got to be at home.” I got in my car and raced to my place.
I went straight to the bathroom drawer to check the jewelry dish. The ring wasn’t there. This was the moment I started crying.
I got back in my car and headed back downtown, already berating myself for not looking harder for the ring when I had the chance, for not listening to myself when I could feel in my cells that the ring was gone.
The venue was almost empty, the trash swept up. They let me look around again as I wept. I wrote a note describing the ring, telling them it was a family heirloom, to please let me know if anyone finds it.
I crawled into bed and cried myself to sleep.
In the morning light, the tears began again. I posted the ring on multiple lost and found sites and on my social media, grasping at straws. I knew that someone had either picked it up, or it was swept into the trash.
I called my sister to tell her, and she instantly comforted me, reminded me that it’s only a ring, and reassured me that my mom wouldn’t be mad. I called my mom, and she too was wonderful. She told me it was an accident and that I shouldn’t blame myself. She reminded me to be grateful for the many years I got to spend with the ring, and that my grandmother was always with me no matter what. Then she said, “Why don’t you go down there and ask them if you can search their trash? If you really want the ring back that badly, what do you have to lose?”
This hadn’t crossed my mind. Why not go search their trash? Yeah, that would be weird and disgusting—but wouldn’t finding the ring be worth it? And if I didn’t find it, at least I could say I truly did everything I could. I stopped crying and got dressed.
I got to Empire around 1pm and parked near the entrance, no crowds to compete with in the light of day. A locked gate boarded up the venue, which is a large outdoor area leading toward the stage within an open garage—where I was standing when I lost the ring. I wandered over to the front door; everything was locked up and dark. I walked back toward my car, plotting my dumpster dive, scanning the sidewalks diligently.
Then: a glint of gold. I stepped closer.
There was the ring.
I stared at it, eyes wide, mouth agape. Is this real?
It sat there, in a crack on the sidewalk, waiting for me. It was kicked 100 feet from where I lost it, trampled by hundreds of concertgoers, if not thousands of feet along busy Sixth Street on a Friday night. It evaded the curious eyes of so many, escaped industrial brooms, all to land safely in a spot just where I could see it, just outside of the closed Empire gates, right where I could reach it, 20 feet from my parked car.
I picked it up and held it in my hand. It felt heavy with meaning. It was mangled, but it was mine.
I called my mother and wept manic tears of joy. Against all odds and rules of the universe, my grandmother’s ring was returned to me. She handed it to me, placed it in my palm.
Rare, revelatory elation was mine. The high of this gift stayed with me for weeks.
I experienced a miracle—something that made me feel singularly seen and safe in the world. My reality softened; the hard lines I’d drawn between my physical and spiritual worlds blurred.
That night, I talked to the dead.
“Grandma,” I spoke into the darkness, “I love you. Thank you so, so much for giving the ring back to me. I feel so close to you. I miss you. Thank you for watching over me.”
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