Lost & Found

Today’s guest post comes from Steve Grooms.

After living 38 years in my Saint Paul bungalow, I decided to move closer to my family.

I spent half a year last winter and spring preparing my home for sale. The job would have been impossible without the help of several people who contribute to this blog site. They helped clean and paint my home. They loaded decades of junk in a pickup and took it to the dump. And they boxed up a few precious things so I could ship them to Portland.

We finally ran out of time. There was still work to be done when my friends said goodbye the last time and turned their attention toward their own homes, their own families and activities for Memorial Day.

That’s when things fell apart for me. The folks who would run the estate sale wanted me out of the home so they could organize the sale. I still needed to box up more stuff and ship most of it to Portland. And I needed to fill my station wagon with a few things I’d drive to my new home.

When my home hit the real estate market I had to keep leaving while groups of potential buyers toured it. Seven groups came through the first day the home was listed for sale. I sat in my station wagon from a discrete spot up the block, waiting for them to leave so I could go back to packing.

I expected it would take from four to six weeks to sell my home. But 30 hours after going on sale I had two parties offering to pay more than my asking price for the home.

That was wonderful, but it meant that instead of having many weeks to pack and leave I had two days! That would have been difficult for someone young and fit. For a senior citizen with health issues the overnight sale of my home created a crisis. On my last day I limped with boxes of stuff between home and my car in a thunderstorm. It was one of the worst days of my life.

Many things I meant to take to Oregon never got packed because I ran out of time. I didn’t realize how severe my losses were until I got to Portland and discovered how many useful or beloved things had failed to make the trip. The box of precious family photos ended up in a landfill in Minnesota. I forgot to bring my warm coat. My favorite Christmas memorabilia didn’t show up after the move.  Molly, my daughter, grieved the loss of the Christmas box, although she understood I had left Minnesota in near panic.

Last Thursday Molly and Liam came over to my new apartment. I mentioned that there was one last box I hadn’t opened after the move. Parked on a high shelf, it was too heavy for me to bring down. From its weight, I guessed the box held books.

Liam and I were in the living room when Molly called to me in a strangled voice. I rushed to the bedroom. The mystery box was on the bed, flaps open. Molly was holding a Lunds shopping bag that had been packed in May by one of my baboon friends, probably Linda or Barbara. That bag held our old family Christmas stockings. Tears streamed down Molly’s cheeks. She wasn’t able to talk.

The red stocking was made for me by my dad in 1956 when we lived in Iowa. A plump green fish swims near the top of the stocking and exhales a bright spray of sequin bubbles. My name is written below, the letter shaped from red and white pipe cleaners.

My erstwife’s childhood blue stocking was there too. Kathe’s mother sewed this stocking by hand when the family still lived in New York City. She decorated it with a reindeer fawn, a Christmas tree and a little girl dressed for Swedish folk dancing.  Stitched letters proclaim “Merry Christmas Kathe Ann.”

While my former wife was not artistic or crafty, she had a gift for making charming Christmas stockings. There in the Lunds bag was the stocking she made for Molly in 1983. The white stocking sparkles with sequins and carries several iconic Christmas objects: a teddy bear, a dancing girl and a goofy jack-in-the-box. At the bottom of the stocking a six-year-old girl sleeps lies in her bed, her arm thrown over an orange kitten. The little girl is, of course, Molly. We gave the kitten to Molly just before Christmas.

When Molly first saw the exuberant kitten, she said, “Wow, that’s one froshus cat!”  And that is how Froshus got his name.

When she finally could speak through her tears, Molly said, “Nothing else matters. The other stuff you lost doesn’t matter. I didn’t want you to know that it broke my heart to think we’d lost these. And here they are.” The old stockings now hang on Molly’s hearth, waiting to be filled by Santa.

Merry Christmas, baboons.

What precious object would you dread to lose?

62 thoughts on “Lost & Found”

  1. Wonderful story, Steve. Glad that your beloved Christmas items are back where they belong. Is there a Liam stocking added to the mix now?

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  2. Good morning. I’m glad you found those treasured stockings, Steve. I have plenty of old stuff that I am keeping which might be considered to be treasured objects. I could part with all of that stuff without too much trouble, although I would prefer not to be without any of it. There is an old ornate dresser and mirror from my parents that I would pick if I had to select one thing to save.

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  3. This brought happy tears to my eyes. Glad the stockings were found.

    As for my object…hmm. My immediate response is my grandmother’s Fostoria. Most especially the covered butter dish. It’s the square blocks American pattern and I love it. Besides that I love the pattern, it reminds me of my grandmother and family gatherings with the cousins and weird Jell-o at Easter and lefse she made (hence my special connection to the butter dish) and adults clucking like chickens while grandkids hunted for eggs (they clucked if they could see a kid was close to an egg) and the big double lot that we could play in and the big bed upstairs with the white chenille spread for sleepovers. Yeah. the Fostoria butter dish. Gonna go with that.

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    1. Good choice, Anna. I can’t tell if my strange experience this year is typical, meaning whether it is relevant to other folks. I started with mountains of stuff that meant something to me. I pretty much got rid of it all, and when I thought about things I realize that 99% of what I thought was precious was not. And yet the remaining stuff–like the stockings–really means a lot to me.

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  4. I am sorry about your family photos, but good news that you found these precious things!

    I would most hate to lose my poetry. Besides a hard/reading copy, I have files on a flash drive, but now you’ve reminded me that I haven’t updated that since I wrote the last couple of poems. I should do that on my days off this week.

    My Book of Shadows is on the flash drive as well–I could with considerable effort reconstruct most of it if I lost my printout AND my data, but some things I’d have to contact a fellow initiate to get (and since some teachings were only meant to be transmitted orally, I’d have to be on the phone with her, taking notes while she read things out).

    There are, of course, childhood and family things, as well as gifts from friends, that’d hurt to lose, but those are the most significant, and the most singular, things I can think of.

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  5. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Steve, thanks for the post–very nice; and it takes us, as Baboons, full circle back to Your Big Move. It appears that six months later your life is comfortable and full of family. Good for you.

    An object I would be loathe to lose is the old wagon box. It holds the pioneer family history of moving, post-American Revolution across the woods and plains to Iowa, and now Minnesota. I feel a need to honor the old Pioneers. They sacrificed so much so I could have the good life I have. It must be a life that even my grandparents could not imagine. The box is a symbol of my need to honor them.

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  6. Thanks, Steve – now I’m sitting here in my cube sniffling and snuffling. Lovely.

    This is the 3rd year in a row that only 2/3 of my ornaments go on the tree, thanks to the kitten. I do have one special ornament, that lives in a box within the big box and I’m not sure it will see the light of day while this kitten is alive. When my parents were young marrieds with no money for fancy ornaments, my mother bought a set of red glass bulbs and hand-painted them with black paint. What you need to know is that my mother, who has many many wonderful qualities, cannot count “artsy” as one of those traits. The ornament that is guarded against the kitten has three stick figures painted on it, 1 boy figure, 1 girl figure and one tiny girl figure and underneath she painted “we three”. It’s my favorite.

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  7. When Mom died, I threw out a lot of things out that my she had kept that were comforting and familiar but not practical to keep-the album she had made to hold cards I received for my first birthday, for example. I heartlessly tossed lots of stuff like that. I had no trouble tossing the pill bottles that held her and my gall stones. I have not idea why she kept those! She had given me her Christmas ornaments years ago, and they are pretty precious. I wonder how my children will approach keeping those ornaments. I guess it is out of my control, and I am not going to worry about it. My children will have to winnow and toss like I did once we are gone.

    I have wooden carvings and china cups that came from Germany that I would dread to lose, as well as that jade incense burner I wrote about in an earlier post.

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    1. Funny about the gall stones. One of the things I let go was a frozen bottle of my dad’s urine. He once asked me to promise to spill it on the grave of his business enemy (who, by an odd twist of fate, is someone VS has worked for). I agreed, although I’m not big on revenge. But the man lives and i now will probably never see Minnesota again, so his grave site (currently unoccupied) is safe from my dad’s pee. I hope Dad understands!

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  8. And like CG I have a computer file that I have saved in a couple of places. I have automatic back-up on my pc but I still email it to myself every now and then just to be on the super super safe side. My reading list!

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      1. give him some of your pee and let him live out your dads wish since you failed maybe he can fulfill the destiny and celebrate the important things of life

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      1. Actually, I think it might have been a joint decision – my memory is that Molly had told you by phone to let go of the Christmas ornaments, but I think we agreed these should stay… I could be wrong – Linda, any memory of this?

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        1. I thought some of the ornaments made the cut and went into a box, but I could be wrong. At that point, decisions were being made in lightning-round fashion, out of necessity.

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    1. my moms parents were the Cadillac driving, bachmans flocked tree type and they bestowed on us the most over the top stockings when we were little. then my last sister was born and she didn’t get one then the family grew with wives and stuff and the stocking turned into odd precious memories that didnt fit anything about who we really were. my grandmother bought a bunch of the art walker of the walker art center discarded when he thinned out his collection an decided to dump the classic and focus on the modern stuff. she had some real cool stuff but my moms family kind of spoils the ability to be able to celebrate it. kind of like new money in the unsinkable molly brown. not good nouveau riche

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  9. When I was a kid, a close family friend knitted stockings for my sister and I – you’ve probably seen similar ones, red, white & green w/ a santa face and a jingle bell… names knitted into the top portion. When my baby sister was born, my mom made one for her, but the pattern translated into a bigger stocking. So my mom being my mom, she proceeded to re-do the original two so they would all match. Then she did them for herself and my dad. Then the son-in-laws, the grandkids, the grandpets, etc. They are lovely and I adore them.

    When she was here last month she very coyly asked me if I would be getting any new pets when the current pets went to that big pet store on the sky. I said maybe cats but probably not dogs. It took her a bit to cough up her real reason for asking… she doesn’t want to knit any more stockings for pets and wanted to prepare me. I asked why she would think this would get my shorts in a bunch and she admitted that my baby sister didn’t take this news well when she added a new kitten to her household this year. In my next call w/ my sister I will suggest that she learn to knit.

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  10. l’ve occasionally pondered what would be the most important things to quickly get out of the cottage were there to be a fire. lt’s a reasonable possibility given that it’s 120 years old, has old fashioned fuses, and the wiring looks like spaghetti junction. l’d really like the baby grand piano, but doubt that l could move it. My cats would, of course, come first, my pictures second (Steve – l have plenty to share with you!); my purse and legal documents, my month-at-a-glance appointment book, and finally, my Mac. l can l live without everything else, l think.

    These thoughts have me envisioning my path through the cottage to collect all these items and maybe putting a big box in the cat crapper closet underneath the stairwell so that l can very quickly load up!

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  11. Kinda OT – just came from Target… they have a giftcard this year in the shape of a stocking w/ the little bull terrier sticking out of it. Very cute.

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  12. In grand old Evan with new kitten and very POed old cat.
    I carved ornaments for daughter, son, grandson, grand daughter each year, maybe for about five years. Not sure if they have or will have meaning. I should go upstairs an see if they are on their trees. Kids each have a small tree, which was a tradition for our children. That is something one just has to let go. Now wondering if I should try carving any for new grandson.
    One of the burdens of being a pastor is all the religious gifts you get, often or usually rather tacky. That did not happen to me but it has in spades to my daughter and son in law. They could bury their tree in ornaments they have been given.
    BTW, Sandy can still make wonderful cardemom bread.
    I have spend the last few weeks on end of life issues for Sandy and I. Have assigned our bodies to the U of M. Made it clear to kids not to be burdened by our stuff. Told my grandkids to not worry about trashing all the framed and boxed art and carvings. I have been slowly weeding out stuff that is only sentimental. Son and daughter have made it clear they do not want anything except the two things they have each named for after we die. I am happy they are forthright about it. But wish we had not somehow lost the wrench with the hole in it from my childhood with my father, my mothers cast iron waffle maker, and the charm bracelet we collected for my wife in the 60s and 70s. That bracelet disappeared in our move to Kato 17 years ago.

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    1. Sorry, I got away from the computer for a while. My erstwife made stockings for our cats and dogs. That one is for Katie, my English setter (Linda, Barbara and Sherrilee will remember her). One day we pointed out to my exwife that people stockings were all visualized as seen from the side while pet stockings were all top views, with their little toes sticking down. She was mystified about why she saw them that way. I love it. This is primitive art, fol;k art, in every way!!

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  13. When my son Joel was 5 or 6, he did a crayon drawing of Santa that just knocked my sox off… He wasn’t usually particularly artistic, but managed to capture the spirit of The Old Elf, right down to the belt. I photocopied it on to red paper and sent it out for Christmas cards that year, with “Ho! Ho! Ho!” for the sentiment inside. I have three copies left, which I came upon the other day. (Loaned one to Linda, who’s going to scan it.) I realize it is folly to keep them all in the same place, so I will remedy that.

    Other than that and a few other Joel items, I can only come up with photos (and it has occurred to me that life would go on even if I lost those). Well, maybe one platter from my dad’s mom (I remember the pattern on her everyday dishes when we would visit), and the journal that my mom’s mom kept when I stayed with her while my sister was being born.

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    1. frame them an d build a collage of them to be left up or brought out at christmas or something. celebrate the important stuff.
      my computer had an elf jump in with a damn spell checker that is trying to change my identity. Christmas with a capital c really…

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    2. Memorabilia can be so hard to handle. When I got married, a surprise gift was from a woman friend who used to cook and clean up when my dad had fishing parties on big Saganaga Lake. This dear woman was a sort of friend, although I only was with Charlotte five or six days of my life. She gave me a perfectly hideous vegetable plate for a wedding gift. The aesthetics were pure Ben Franklin, whereas Kathe and I were into Scandinavia minimalism at the time. I moved that ugly plate through four apartments and then to our home. I finally let go of it for this move, but it hurt like hell. That was the one piece of sweet Charlotte I had in my life, and to let it go felt like a personal betrayal of her.

      Fascinating woman. She married an Indian fellow. Charlotte herself was Finnish. One day her little sister came up for a visit at their tiny cabin on Saganaga. She stayed. One day, maybe nine weeks into the visit, Charlotte’s husband began building a cabin. After maybe two weeks of wondering, Charlotte asked who would live their. “You.” The three of them stayed together until two died off.

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  14. I am a collector of sicko proportions. I have so much stuff I find delight in every corner of my world. books art photos music shoes shirts hats coats ormnaments suitcases. I have new 30 year old suitcases and briefcases and top coats that are really cool. I have a warehouse to keep my stuff in brcause no attic or garage could do it. the house on the rock makes me sick and so does the thought of wasiting a million hours sorting all the stuff out. I have wonderful songs I have written on cassette tapes in a pile of 5000 cassette tapes. there is one song I would love to find . poems I wrote years ago, pictures I drew painting I painted, notes I wrote down my kids will have a dumpster party for sure if don’t beat them to is. rosebud is in there but where? maybe my baseball card collection ,oh wait my mom threw that out already. how about my kids. those are my true treasures. the rest I can remember better than it turns out to be in real life. I am surprised how ordinary some of the wonderful stuff I remember must appear to those who don’t have the memories to accompany it. an employee found my Christmas ornament box and made the incorrect execyutive decision t throw it out because he couldn’t see it bringing much on ebay. I could have wrung his bell. save one thing? a piece of my moms art.

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  15. I’ve been worried lately about losing my car key. I bought a VW Jetta wagon this year, and it has only one key. My past cars have all had keys you could take to the hardware store to have copied, but not this one. There’s a security chip in it. If I were to lose it, I’d have to have the car towed to a dealership so that they could unlock the ignition.

    Still, it is ultimately replaceable, it would just be a real pain.

    What would I save if the house was burning down? Of course, the cats first. Of the other things, it’s so hard to decide. It’s not one thing, it’s a lifetime of things. There are the quilts my mother and grandmother made. My mom’s rolling pin. All the records I bought as a teenager – yes, I could replace them, theoretically, but if I list them, I probably wouldn’t. I would just miss them. The tiger’s-eye-maple music box made by friends. Bookends that my neighbor made from the red cedar tree that fell in my backyard. Books that have moved with me for forty years. Many gifts that carry memories of the giver. No, I couldn’t choose.

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    1. You need a backup key, Linda. Have you confirmed that only the dealership can make a new one? No locksmith can do it? That’s the kind of product where dealerships are really likely to gouge their customers. As a simple matter of policy, I always have a spare key.

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      1. No regular locksmith can make one. You can get a locksmith outside the dealership if they specialize in these sort of keys, but it costs about $150 or more. The dealership charges around $250.

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    2. Gifts that carry the memory of the giver – those are what get me. Pottery or other art that was made by now dead friends. Not necessarily items of great monetary value, but items that provide a tangible link to the maker and evoke memories of times past.

      The family “heirlooms,” and by that I mean items passed down from previous generations primarily for their monetary value, are items that in most cases I could easily part with. Paintings that we would never have purchased for ourselves, but because they are the work of artists who achieved some modicum of renown and therefore represent a “real” value, these are the items we’re currently culling from our collection of stuff.

      In the case of a fire, the animals would be the first to be rescued. If time permitted I’d probably also grab the large oval photo hanging on our dining room wall of my dad as a small boy – and my car keys.

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  16. A little late to the trail…I’m trying to figure out what one percent of the things that I think are precious really are precious. Maybe that means that I don’t need much “stuff” to be happy. But for sure, I better take those photos, negatives, and slides that I’ve been talking about scanning and actually do it. And back it up in two places.

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