Right before I left for my annual trip to Puerto Vallarta in February, I hid three pieces of gold jewelry. A tenant in my home deep in the woods of East Hampton, New York was to watch the house and my cat while I was gone. This wasn’t the first time I had hidden jewelry before traveling. When I returned from my journey this time, I didn’t immediately look for the gold — a necklace, bracelet and ring. When I finally did so, I had no recollection of where it was.
Was my tenant a thief? I trusted her…but did I? While in Mexico, I had called and asked her to find a bank I.D. in my top desk drawer. Could she have extended her search? “I can’t find some jewelry of mine,” I finally said to her after I returned. “You didn’t happen to see it in my desk drawer, did you?”
I got the facial reactions I might have expected. Hurt, indignant, sad.
“Oh, never mind,” I muttered apologetically, and continued my search.
It’s not unusual for me to hide things and then forget where they are. I attribute this to being a writer and therefore creative and artistic. Certainly, my losing things is not because I am now of a certain age and may therefore be forgetful, with senility looming on the horizon. I simply have better things to do with my mind than to remember where I put stuff. Keys, wallet, cell phone, cash, and eyeglasses — they all vanish. As a person who has frequently lost one of a set of earrings, I now wear cheap ones.
I didn’t worry about the lost jewelry for awhile. Missing was a long, heavy gold chain with a solid gold shark pendant hanging from it, which belonged to a former boyfriend, a fisherman and boat captain. We broke up a few years ago, and he never came back to claim it. There was also a chunky, solid gold charm bracelet, a gift to me when I was 17 years old from my first husband-to-be. Three charms hung on the bracelet — a cross, an anchor and a heart – the symbols in Christianity of faith, hope and charity. Last, there was a handsome ring, a thick 14-karat beauty, elaborately constructed of thick golden circles, designed by a jeweler friend.
By May I became concerned that the gold was still missing. Faced with expensive dental work, I decided I might sell some jewelry to pay my bills. The current price for an ounce of gold was around $1,500. I had been searching off and on, the drawers of a dresser one day, the drawers of another the next. I emptied everything out onto my bed, carefully examining the contents. There was no hidden bonanza.
In June my hunting became more frantic. All the shoes and boots came out and were duly examined, as was the entire, large wall-to-wall carpeted floor. No luck.
“I’ll help you move the mattress,” a friend offered. I thought I might have hidden my jewelry way back between the mattress and box spring. I’d done that before. “That’s the dumbest place to hide anything,” my friend said with a chuckle. “That’s the first place crooks would look.”
But no treasure was to be found, nor was it stuck in the folds of the dust ruffle, which I removed and shook out. I even ran my hands along the baseboards.
I rummaged through the inside of all my pocketbooks, emptied my three desk drawers and, using a flashlight, probed behind the desk, the file cabinets, and the furniture. I moved every book on the bedroom bookshelf – just in case. Maybe I hid it in another room, or in the basement?
What did the jewelry mean to me, I wondered, other than its monetary value? I thought about this during my forays into the bedroom closet, where I moved everything on the shelves and on the floor. I also searched the basement cabinets and laundry area, and even under my bathroom sink. Why I would have chosen any one of these places as a hiding spot, I have no idea. But it had been a last-minute decision to conceal the jewelry, right before I shoved my suitcase out the front door and loaded it, then me, into a waiting taxi.
I would never wear the gold necklace and shark. Rick wore it often, especially to the shark tournaments we went to in Montauk each summer. I found the events revolting. All that blood and guts spilled over the docks as the sharks were weighed in first, and then hacked up. The necklace had been a gift to Rick from one of his employers. Unless he suddenly reappeared, asking that I return his gold shark, I would definitely sell the chain and pendant.
My charm bracelet was another jewelry item I rarely wore. Billy, my first husband, and I married very young and split up after only two years. I kept the bracelet, but many years ago I sold the original charms. Three newer gold charms were on it now, the heart and anchor, two of the last gifts Rick gave me. I had worn the bracelet to please him.
The third charm was a small golden, flat cross, resembling a chalice, that was a gift from Billy. He gave it to me at my sweet sixteenth birthday party, before we were even dating. I loved this little cross, partly because it had been a special, unusual gift, but also because it made me feel spiritual to wear it – or even just to gaze at it in my jewelry box. For many years I had worn it around my neck before graduating to a diamond on a gold chain.
Then there was the ring. My friend, Susan, designed that ring especially for me and had it made by her craftsman in New York City. “This is so perfect for you,” she said when presenting it to me one Christmas. After many years as a successful jewelry shopkeeper in the Hamptons, Susan had started running her business from home.
She was sick with ovarian cancer, which I learned right after the diagnosis; there would be no remission. We had been friends since the mid-1970s, when we met in a dance class in East Hampton. From the time she was diagnosed, until the time she died, I helped Susan, doing office work, keeping her files organized and running errands. On days when she felt especially weak, I answered the phone and took care of her e-mail messages, did her banking and whatever else she needed.
Since deciding to part with my gold, when and if I found it, I realized I could never part with Susan’s ring. She was thrilled to know that I would wear it and that it would live on after she died. I wonder, in fact, if she’s peering down from heaven as I look high and low for the hidden stash, with tears in her eyes. “Please, my dear friend, find that ring!”
I say the Prayer to St. Anthony, which I have pinned on the bulletin board. A request to St. Anthony, the “gentlest of Saints,” is supposed to be unfailing; he who “received from God the special power of restoring lost things,” but, so far, it hasn’t worked. He’s busy, I suppose, assisting people with more serious problems and losses.
I also pray to St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless cases. As it reads on the card: “Are you faced with a desperate situation? This prayer helps remind us that nothing is impossible with God, even help when you’re at your wit’s end.”
The lyrics from Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” are with me when I’m foraging for my missing precious possessions. I hum the melody and try to keep calm. Anyone observing me would probably think I’ve crossed over the edge and need psychiatric care:
“I’ve been to Hollywood, I’ve been to Redwood
I crossed the ocean for a heart of gold…
And I’m getting old…”
That “getting old” part: it occurs to me that I may not find the gold. I might grow really old and more forgetful and then be taken to a place where they keep such sad creatures. Others will find the gold, tell me about it, and I won’t understand what they’re saying. Or care.
Okay, back to the quest. Where shall I look next? The living room? The kitchen? Next week I’ll rent a metal detector. Maybe that’s what St. Anthony and St. Jude would tell me to do. And my friend Susan.