Bundled in layers of scratchy red wool and sitting on top of a splintery old sled, I held on tight as my brothers dragged me through the heavy snow and across the yard. I had no mittens on and there was at least a foot of snow on the ground. My chubby hands were red from the wet and cold, but that didn’t stop me from asking for another ride around the yard. My brothers, home from boarding school for the holidays, grabbed the sled’s rope and pulled me around the trodden paths again.
It was a classic gray winter day in 1965. I reveled in the attention from the older boys and sat very satisfied on the sled while it jerked and lurched in the sticky snow. Finally, red-cheeked and sweating, the boys gave up and tipped me over into the snow before we all headed inside.
My stiff fingers could barely wrap around a warm mug of cocoa. When I plopped two marshmallows in I realized my little gold ring with the pink stone was missing from my right hand. My heart thumped in fear. I lost the ring I received just months earlier for my 5th birthday. My first piece of real jewelry was somewhere in the snow.
All that winter I combed the yard, scraping through crusty snow looking for a pink glimmer against the dirty white. Of course it was useless and eventually the ring was forgotten.
Winter became summer and summer became fall and I started first grade. Waiting for the bus I’d stand at the front window, mesmerized by the glittery dew on the grass. The beauty of the light distracted me from my anxious feelings about starting school. Then it occurred to me that one of those glitters might be my long-lost ring. Each morning, when the sun would illuminate the drops of water on every blade, I’d look for a pink sparkle, then run outside and rake my hands through the wet grass for my ring. This went on all fall until snow covered the yard again and the quest for my ring was abandoned.
Why does losing a prized possession mean so much when it is just a material object? Perhaps because we infuse certain things with the energy of our hearts. I remember loving that ring not only because it was pretty, but because it signified a huge milestone—my fifth birthday. I loved that ring with all my heart, so it eventually became a piece of me. It attuned to me, attached by my spirit and any spare electrons I happened to share space with. It vibrated at the speed of me, a beloved item radiating the energy of its owner.
Early this year I read a story in the New York Times about Peter Frampton. He lost his favorite guitar in 1980, the one he played when I saw him perform at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo on his Frampton Comes Alive! tour. It was the Gibson that he played throughout the 1970s, the one Frampton said was a part of him. But a cargo plane carrying it crashed en route to Panama where Frampton was to perform. It was assumed lost, but it wasn’t.
Someone salvaged the guitar and ended up playing it for years. That guitar had a whole other life in another country for decades. After many years, a Frampton fan recognized the distinctive guitar. It was a bit banged up, but it was Frampton’s guitar, that one that he said was the best guitar he ever played, that one that made him feel like “his feet left the ground” the first time he played it. The fan was able to buy it and graciously returned it to Frampton just this year. After being lost for all those years, it found its way back to him through what, happenstance? Coincidence? Luck? Love?. It was clear the guitar just belonged with him. They just vibrated at the same speed.
A few years after losing the ring, my sister and I were doing hand stands and cartwheels in the front yard, trying to teach ourselves gymnastics. I was having so much fun I wasn’t paying attention to myself. With an exuberant kick, my feet whirled over my head and I lost my balance, coming down hard. On the way I stuck out my right hand to catch myself and hit something sharp. It was a mangled little gold ring missing a pink stone. Shocked, I looked around at where I was in the yard— right where I fell off the sled so many winters ago. My ring found me, I thought, pleased that it came back to me. The day I found my ring was as happy as the day I lost it. That ring belonged with me.