Navigating the Sandwich
Why Losing Things Doesn’t Matter
Lost Items can be replaced. People, relationships, memories cannot
I’ve lost a decent amount of valuable items. I can’t say for certain the exact monetary value of them. To me, their values lie not so much in the monetary but rather in the sentimental. In that regard, their values are unquantifiable. Some may say priceless.
My Aunt Jo (short for Joanne, my late mother’s older sister) gave me a pair of pearl drop earrings when I was 12. Each earring is made of a delicate stick of gold with a pearl dangling from the bottom of the gold stick. She gave them to me on the occasion of my bat mitzvah, as she explained to me that her husband (my Uncle Dick, short for Uncle Richard) had given them to her when they became engaged. I wore them to my bat mitzvah and for special occasions throughout my teenage years. They went with my preppy teenage style, and I liked that they once belonged to my aunt Jo — my fashion-forward relative who has always been generous to me with the jewelry and the compliments. She calls me her favorite niece. I’m her only niece. I lost those earrings sometime during my college years. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment.
My husband gave me a bracelet with tiny silver chain links and even tinier diamonds interspersed throughout the chains. He gave them to me one night a few weeks before we got married over takeout Chinese food in our tiny galley kitchen in our tiny apartment on the Upper West Side of New York. He called it an engagement present. I immediately put it on my wrist over the takeout dinner and rarely took it off for the next year and a half. I made the mistake of not wearing it on the day we moved from the Upper West Side to Ann Arbor. The bracelet never made it to Michigan. I sometimes wonder where exactly along the moving route it became officially lost. Western Pennsylvania? Northern Ohio? Or perhaps it fell behind in the service elevator of the Upper West Side apartment building? Thankfully my husband and I made it safely out to Michigan and two years later to Eastern Pennsylvania, where we have lived for the last 15 years.
My good college friend Lauren gave me a pair of blue flower sparkly stud earrings nearly 20 years ago. She bought them and several other pairs in different colors while she was in Paris traveling for work. She gave me my pair and the others to the girls in our very close group of girlfriends from college when we met out for dinner one night after work in New York City. We were like the Sex and the City girls back then — without the crazy shoes and the crazy sex. I wore those blue sparkly studs a lot over the course of the next two decades. They were my go-to travel earrings as they went with almost everything and added sparkle to the simplest of outfits. They were also perfect weekend run around earrings. I lost them about a year ago — I think when I was running around one weekend. I still meet up with my close college girls a lot, considering that none of us live or work in the same city anymore. When we get together now it feels like The Big Chill — without the dead body. One of my college girls came up with that description on one of our more recent college girls’ weekends.
I think about these lost items every now and then — perhaps more than I should? It used to make me sad to think of them as I perseverated over losing them, sometimes becoming angry with myself for having misplaced them. But, then somewhere along the way, I remembered something that my mom said to me when she was sick, before she died. She told me not to get upset over lost material objects as they can always be replaced. People, relationships, memories — they cannot be replaced.
My Aunt Jo is my memory and also my history. Beyond still being extremely fashion-forward, generous with the compliments and more (I have a voicemail she once left me saved because it makes me feel good about myself whenever I listen to it), she is my direct connection to my late mother, to my late maternal grandparents, to parts of my childhood and to my mother’s and hers that I’m not sure anyone else on this earth would ever understand. When I run into someone from a part of my past, or hear a story I know that only she will appreciate, I call her immediately. Her reaction on the other end of the phone is more meaningful than any stick of gold or freshwater pearl could ever be.
A friend of mine once described my husband as the salt of the earth. That is the best description I’ve ever heard of him. He is a good guy. He is fun to be with and even funnier when you to get know him, which can take some time. I am still learning new things about him now over 22 years after meeting him, and thankfully still loving what I learn. We have grown together over the years and now decades, and I fully appreciate how lucky we have been in that regard. I know that is easy and fairly common to grow apart. The engagement bracelet is one of countless items that my husband has given me over the years. Some of the gifts have been more successful than others (the tasseled necklace landed better than did the white see-through yoga pants.) While the engagement bracelet was quite beautiful, I have chalked it up to another pair of yoga pants, a material item he once gave me which is nowhere near as valuable as the time we have spent together, and so too the life we have built.
I have grown up with my college girls in just about every way. Little did I know that when I met each of them 26 years ago at various spots on our college campus, that they would be the girls I would talk to every week in our grownup lives — that our frequent text exchanges would make me laugh out loud in the middle of an ordinary day, adding a smile to my face for hours — sometimes for the rest of that day. Each of them knows instinctively what I am feeling when we talk or see each other in person. I can’t count the number of times one of the girls has asked me what was wrong when something wasn’t quite right, but I didn’t know how to express it to anyone except for them. No pair of sparkly earrings could ever know me like that.
I saw a pair of dangly pearl earrings in a jewelry store a few years ago. They bore a striking resemblance to Aunt Jo’s. Neil has mentioned to me on more than one occasion that I should replace the diamond bracelet. Lauren found a web site for the market in Paris where she bought the blue sparkly studs and even forwarded me the link. I have never once seriously considered replacing these items. I think that’s because I know for sure that I can never ever replace the people who gave them to me, the memories we have shared together and what they have meant to me. I couldn’t even begin to try.
Rachel Levy Lesser is a writer and former marketing professional whose work has appeared in outlets like The Huffington Post, Glamour.com, Parenting.com, Kveller, Modern Loss, Scary Mommy, and The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Her fourth book, Life’s Accessories will be released November 5.