Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lost & Stuff

Apparently there is an iPhone app for finding lost keys -- here -- go figure -- but on Sunday I couldn't brag that I was in possession of any such device when my keys vanished -- whoosh, gone.

Riles and I were up to our elbows in pie crust and apples when our neighbor Roy knocked on the door to help us move The Behemoth (an ugly white vinyl massaging recliner acquired by my younger son and then conveniently abandoned when he moved out -- presto! Out of sight, out of mind.) It weighs slightly less than this:

And moving it Out Of The House required tripping it down ten steps. Not something I was going to attempt without sufficient manpower. Moved my car from the driveway so we could park The Behemoth beneath a tarp in the shadow of the quince.

And then finally: done.

I stood outside in the chilly October afternoon, no coat, and chatted with Roy about learning to play the concertina by watching YouTube videos; and Roy, an old-time fiddle player and, at age 65 (or so) approaching the state of a grizzled, lean H. Brandonium, demonstrated clog-dancing that he learned from -- yes, watching YouTube videos. Roy does nothing without wit and a wryly-humorous narrative, and within seconds I was overtaken with delighted laughter at his fancy footwork and tale of feeling oddly embarrassed practicing clogging alone in front of the computer screen.

Back inside, Riles and I resumed our apple-turnover adventure. Once they were in the oven, we continued the seemingly never-ending task of Cleaning Out Stuff. I've been back in this house nearly six months now, and it feels like I'll never fully liberate it from its fraternity-house atmosphere. New paint helps, as does the reinvented bathroom.

But: STUFF. I believe that once you are successful in removing any amount of STUFF from a house, the remaining STUFF not only inflates itself to fill the newly vacated space, it undergoes a kind of mitosis. Replication of STUFF is a bad thing. And there's a sneaking suspicion that it happens in my house the minute I leave a room. Emptied and then: BAM! Filled. Repeat.

We had to prepare a third and final room for painting, and I'd been amazingly successful at avoiding this room all summer. Because it was already filled with STUFF, it became the receptacle for all STUFF that couldn't find a home, including:

1. a single black hiking boot
2. a popover tin
3. strewn baseball cards
4. a mattress
5. a survival-print coverall
6. a box of transformers
7. retired baseball caps
8. a pile of mismatched gloves
9. pennies
10. other

My biggest achievement of the day, other than the banishment of The Behemoth, was in discovering that surface of my dining room table, piled-high with STUFF for months -- apparently it's a lovely butcher-block oak table, circa 1980. Go figure.

The kitchen now fragrant with cinnamon and golden pie crust, I hung up my apron and prepared to go out for the evening.

And no keys.

A cursory search yielded nothing, and even fewer clues. And because we'd moved and cleaned so much in the prior hour, nothing was where it used to be. I took the search to the second level, seeking out keys behind and under sofas, in and under sofa cushions, under tables and under chair cushions, in boxes where the tiny bits of accumulated and random STUFF had, by default, congregated. 


Level Three: garbage can, food waste bin, recycling bin.

Again: nothing.


Level Four: up and down the front steps, with a flashlight in the garden on either side of the steps, to-and-from the car (tidily locked up, no keys within), in-and-around the tarped Behemoth.

Nothing nothing nothing.

Screamingly: nothing.

My friend Tom came over and helped -- or should I say, "god help me, there's someone digging in the darkest corners of my house aka my subconscious." I felt flayed open, unmasked, denuded. Tried to keep my mind from wondering what Tom would find other than keys. Yikes.

But still no keys. They didn't seem to be hidden, wedged, under, between, or even in plain sight anywhere.

I gave up for the night -- and resumed my futile quest in the morning.

Now for the math:

no keys + no spares = no car

no keys + no car title yet (complication of dee-vorce) = communication with ex, re: spares?

text message to ex + voice mail from ex = more complicated title info and still no spare key

voice mail from ex [after months of < zero communication]  ≈ anxiety multiplied by π = I have to wait ten days until new copy of title arrives.

(Grrrrrr.) (Hrrrrmmmphhh.)

 Remember all those kids in high school math questioning the point of taking any math at all, and the question, "When will I ever use this?"

Well, apparently they never anticipated losing their car keys while making π.


(No, the keys were not embedded in an apple turnover.)

Having hithered and dithered for an entire workday about the absence of keys, I came home and got out the ingredients for a nice sausage-kale-potato soup. I donned the necessary apron, which fell off the hook into my hands with an uncommon weight and a jingle: AHA!

But nothing is without its lesson and delights: in searching, I was inclined to think that the reason for the keys' invisibility was my overabundance of STUFF -- that they'd become lost in the swirl of getting-rid-of, had become victim to my desire to purge and purge again. And then the sound of my ex on the voice mail, like a ghost, as dee-vorce is so much a death in its own right, sent a disturbing chill up my back and into my skull, wrapped its wriath-like fingers around the lobes of my brain. There was the actual physical sensation of a punch to my gut. And yet there he was, with his verbal explanation, in nearly live-time, recorded for all perpetuity on my iPhone. And for all intents and purposes (for all intentional purposes?) dead to me. 

The perspective gained, from yesterday to today, is significant. Yesterday I was myself lost to any freedom to move forward, albeit if only by car, and the world seemed locked out to me, inhabited by voice-mail ghosts. Felt as if, once I closed a door behind me, I'd never again go back through it. 

But it wasn't the presence of STUFF. I wasn't locked out to anything except my ability to consider that this was merely a single day, with its minimal significance. 

I can appropriately blame the misplacement of keys with my apron-wearing obsession and my own rapidly-leaping thought process. My brain had already moved on to pie when I unconsciously slipped the key-ring into the apron pocket.

And now, a day later, I can say that I've repossessed the key(s) to a happiness, of sorts -- a happiness that was always here. (Kind of a Dorothy-returning-to-Kansas experience.) And that doors everywhere are opening to my command.

Who wants pie?


  1. FYI, if you're really in a bind, you can get a locksmith to come and reverse engineer a key from your car door. I once had to do this after losing the ONLY key to my dad's truck. Wasn't cheap (around $200, I think... prob about the same value as the entire truck), but I was so grateful for the service and to know that that option exists.

  2. An Epic!

    That begins and concludes with pie.

    Holy. Cow!

    Love, C.

  3. that phone app demonstration video is a hoot! do i really want my friends and family to be notified that I've lost my valuables? How about my mind? NO!!

    Have you ever heard George Carlin's riff on STUFF? You should.

    And did you use my sausage, kale and potato soup recipe?

    Another fine post, T. Your musings on freedom and the loss thereof, or the perception of, priceless.

  4. STUFF is a nightmare. I'm guilty of accumulating loads of it. And guess what; Lady Magnon is capable of losing ANYTHING! I send sympathy above all.

  5. Tara, yes, I'm familiar with the George Carlin rant. He was a genius, and is missed.

    Did not use your recipe; I forgot that you posted it. Should've used your recipe. Mine, from a random online site, was unremarkable.