When I was visiting my sister in Omaha a few weeks ago, I lost an earring. Whenever I go someplace more than overnight, I always take these particular earrings with me. They were a gift given to me by my boyfriend almost 6 years ago. It was our first Christmas together. He chose to give me this gift 3 days before Christmas was even here! (I would later learn that he can't stand waiting for fun surprises - he always breaks early!) The excitement and apprehension in his beautiful, sparkling eyes is still so vivid and clear in my mind.
"I've never given a girl a gift like this before." He handed me the little black box. (For two seconds I thought he was proposing! But then I realized we were standing near a pile of his dirty clothes and knew he was a little more classy than that.)
I opened the box and saw two small, sparkly, gorgeous diamond earrings. I didn't think I was a diamond kind of girl. But his eyes, the apprehension on his face, his slight intake of breath to gauge my reaction turned me into his diamond girl.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't the diamonds, it was him. He was thoughtful and deliberate and wanted to show me he loved me. I loved him too. If I had opened up that box and found a piece of tin, I would've have cherished that piece of tin just as much as I did those earrings.
As you may have guessed or surmised, I married this boy. Again, not because of the earrings. (This is a hard story to tell without coming across as materialistic!) It was a million other gestures, phrases, words, kisses, promises, laughs, cuddles and dreams that sealed the deal. But those earrings would be forever special to me and I liked to wear them when I went on trips without him. I felt like I was bringing part of him with me.
But, when I arrived at my sister's house after a long plane ride, I realized I was sans one earring. As soon as I realized, I was on my knees in her basement where I had put my bags down, running my fingers through the carpet, hoping to feel the lost earring. I was extra sensitive to my sense of touch, because I couldn't see very well through my blurry eyes. As more and more tears welled, I thought of all the places I had been that day. Did I mention I flew in? Hartford airport, Northwest plane, Minneapolis airport, another Northwest plane, Omaha airport, sister's car, park near her house... I knew it was a futile effort to keep looking. It could have been anywhere. My tears then turned into gentle, whimpering sobs.
I had the greatest helpers however. Within a minute of my announcement through a choked up voice, the troops were mobilized. Nephews, 4 and 6 were told what to look for and were on all fours in the living room and staircase. Brother-in-law (also just flew in with other sister) was on the computer looking up lost and found phone numbers for the airline I was on that day. One sister wrangling the one year old cousins while the other helps me re-trace my steps and thoroughly searches her car.
It was a mini brigade. The recruited troops seemed a little more hopeful than I was. Especially my naturally optimistic nephews. While I was doing a second hand sweep of the carpet near my bags, my six year old nephew announces in a very serious voice:
"Guys! Guys! Listen, I know what we can do! Everyone eat carrots, because they help your eyesight, and we'll be able to see Aunt Kara's earring better!"
A smile spontaneously appeared and a few tears dried after that one. Then, when the search moved to the small playground just outside my sister's back door, my four year old nephew came and put his hand on my shoulder. He was holding something in his fingers. His voice was gentle and soft. I was still sniveling and sniffing, 10 minutes into the search.
"Kara, this is small and white and round like your earring. Maybe you could have this instead?"
I hugged him and told him it was a beautiful rock and I would keep it in my pocket in case I couldn't find my earring. He smiled, very pleased with himself for helping. It was getting harder to keep the water works up. Especially after that most sincere offering.
I thanked everyone for helping me look and called off the search. I knew it was gone. I just knew it. I called Chris later that night and told him I had lost one of my earrings. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised to know that I started crying...again. I told him I was really sorry and I should have left them at home and I was going to call the airlines to see if anyone had turned in earring that looked like mine....
He interrupted my blubbering and told me it was okay. They were just earrings. I tried to explain why I was so heartbroken. He said he loved me. He was touched that I cared so much about them. But, after all, they were just earrings.
I told him about our brigade of soldiers on a mission to help me find it. The carrots, the tiny rock, the computer programmer conducting a google search. We laughed together. I felt better. No longer a lump in my throat when I thought of what I had lost that day.
Because, after all, it was just an earring.