Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Just Make Things Harder Than They Need To Be

It’s been over a week since my 10-year-old’s coat went missing. This is not an atypical situation for the teenager, but the 10-year-old is very conscientious with his possessions and he always seems to know where everything is. I’ve looked everywhere for this coat. Meaning, I’ve looked in all the places a coat should be and after that, all the places that a coat could be. I’ve called around to friends. The only place left to look was the school Lost and Found.

I remember touring this town’s various elementary schools years ago when we first moved here. There was one school that had what looked like a tidy little milk box set discretely at the end of a hallway. “What’s that?” I asked the tour guide. “Oh, that’s our Lost and Found.”

Unfortunately, that’s not the school we ended up sending our children to. We chose the school whose Lost and Found more closely resembled the size and carelessness of its population. Which is to say, the school that devotes an entire room to Lost and Found.

Someone once tried to organize this scary place, and they made a valiant effort. They brought in big moving boxes and labeled each one with a color: BLACK. BROWN. GREEN. And so on. When I walked in, there were 10 boxes lined up in a row with garments of every imaginable color strewn willy-nilly in and around the boxes, and then there was an altogether separate heap on the floor.

This is the point where I would normally just say it’s not worth it – I’ll just buy a new coat. That’s apparently what every other parent said. But for some reason, I just decided to have a quick look. So I emptied the BLACK box (because, after all, that’s what color the missing coat was) and started inspecting the contents.

Try as I might to just simply go through my dumped pile and be done with it, I could not. Instead, I’d pick up a coat and lay it down neatly on the floor, thus beginning what would become a 45-minute sorting process of every single clothing item in that big chaotic heap. There were easily two hundred coats in there – two hundred! I ended up emptying all the labeled boxes sorting all the coats back into their proper color boxes. After the first 10 coats, I had abandoned most all hope of finding my son’s. But I couldn’t leave the place in such disarray.

I was nearly done when, there, at the bottom of the floor heap (the heap I was loathe to even touch when I walked in there) was a gray fleece lining that looked vaguely familiar. I snatched it up, turned it inside out, and sure enough, it was the black nylon jacket I’d been looking for. I practically danced out of that building, assured once again that the process of “letting go” is the magical ingredient for being able to draw whatever it is you’re looking for into your life.

I got in the car and placed the coat strategically in the middle of the back seat, so my son would see it right away when he next got in. And he did. He lifted it up and turned it this way and that. I was eager with anticipation at how he would choose to thank me.

“Mom,” he finally said, his voice sweet and earnest. “This isn’t my coat.”

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