Imagine it's Christmas.

Imagine you have bought your small daughter one of those fancy scooter thingies the kids are all zipping around on.

Imagine you have also, being a responsible parent, bought her a set of knee and elbow pads, and of course, a nice, shiny, properly fitted, never been worn Stackhat.

Watch her play happily with her brother for a change, instead of being pushed around, shouted at, and ignored by turns.

Imagine the happy glow you feel.

Then imagine it's Boxing Day.

Visualise your children running outside, smiling at one another, grabbing the scooters and...

"Where's your helmet?"

Imagine a long, long pause, filled with anxiety

Imagine, if you can bear it, eleven days of searching for the missing helmet. Imagine the tears, the dejection ; cupboards turned out, and wastepaper baskets emptied on the floor. Phone calls made to relatives "just in case"

Imagine the disappointment.

Imagine the scooter gathering dust in the corner.

Then imagine yourself realising that, yes, the helmet is gone. Some horrible person must have stolen it from the front garden on Christmas day.

It feels pretty bad, doesn't it?

So you take your daughter to the bike shop.

You buy a new helmet, identical to the first.

You bring her home.

"Go and get your knee and elbow pads, and then you may scoot"

Imagine, if you will, the delighted squeak...

"Mummy! I have two helmets now! I found my old one! It was in the box where I put the knee guards, with my roller skates!"


How do you find something which has been lost?

Replace it.

When searching for a lost object, remember this --

You will always find it in the last place you look.

An alternate method is to procure an identical object, and proceed to lose it, but observing it carefully so that you know where it's at at all times.
The two objects will either

Therefore, this method is not recommended for unique or extremely expensive objects.
Actually, this happens with my youngest daughter all the time. She has not been able to learn one important detail when looking for something.

To find something, do not just stand in the middle of the room and turn in circles. Your x-ray vision is not working yet, and your telekinetic powers are also underdeveloped. You must use your hands to actually physically move things around.

She has lost her bicycle helmet on several occasions. After she spent a good 20 minutes "searching", I've found it:

  • On her bed under her covers.

  • On the handlebars of her bicycle.

  • On her head (honest!)

  • In her closet (spinning in circles did not include opening the closet door).

She still has problems finding things, but after I instruct her to use her hands to find them, she can usually track things down.

I hope she forgets this rule when she starts dating, though.

There are many ways in which to find a lost item. The earliest recorded method I could find was actually written by William Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice and was later adapted into a common folklore belief involving marbles. At one point, Bassanio is speaking with Antonio of his youth.

"In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft, I shot his fellow of the self-same flight The self-same way with more advised watch, To find the other forth, and by adventuring both I oft found both."

For those that do not read Shakespearese, the translation to modern day English is this.

"Back when I was in school, I used to do archery, and sometimes I'd lose an arrow. When this happened I would fire another arrow of the exact same type in the same direction and watch really closely as to where it landed. Then when I went after it, I often found the first one."

Since then it has been adapted to all sorts of things... though the only one that comes to mind is marbles. Anyone who has ever played marbles outdoors --or indoors with a lot of furniture around-- has felt the trauma of losing a purrie or a steelie, or even... god forbid, a masher. The way to find it was to find a marble of similar make and material and shoot it the same direction. This actually works even better than the arrow method, because generally spheres will tend to follow contours, and gravity will draw them to about the same area if it is uneven ground. I heavily suggest trying it sometime, as an experiment.

And that, my friends, is how you find a lost object. Thank you, Mr. Shakespeare.

fingers wander through
sun bleached sand, wind
carrying it beside shells,
August coming, your
hair was lightened too in
the summer light, your hand
felt weaker in my grasp
inland, as we drove
back through the
grasses in the salt marsh
a bird called in the mid-dusk
wind
, trying to find
something which had been lost

I poured the words in a funnel
which turned inwards in a spiral
hope to see you at the other end

"If you would put things away you would know where they are," Timothy said most emphatically to his mother Amy. Timothy is my nephew.

Amy was looking for her car keys. She could have been looking for her purse, her shoes, or her head.

On a typical day when Amy got home from work you could follow her trail through the house. She left a path from the front door to wherever she finally decompressed.

Timothy, not Tim or Timmy, was the polar opposite of his mother. He put everything away and knew where everything was. All of his video games were lined up in alphabetical order. When he got home he hung up his coat on the fifth peg and put his shoes in the same spot under the deacon's bench. He knew exactly how many light switches and electrical outlets there were in the house. He rarely smiled and it pissed him off to no end when his mother would run around the house at the last minute looking for her briefcase or something she should have put away.

When I can't find something the first thing I do is retrace my steps. If that doesn't work I shut my eyes and try to visualize where I've been from the last place I remember having it. I lost a digital recorder last Spring. The last place I remember having it was in the breakfast nook the day before Easter Sunday. I was scrubbing the floor. Our house gets cleaned more the week before Easter than any other time of the year. We have my wife's family in for the day. It is also the most opportune time to misplace something. I had accidentally kicked the bucket and spilled water everywhere. I remember that in great detail. I vaguely recalled seeing my recorder on the breakfast table. After that it was a haze.

If you can't find something on your own you can always ask someone who lives with you. If you live alone feel free to talk to yourself. Amy was always asking someone if they saw her watch or cell phone or keys. Of course you risk being reminded that you should put things away. A place for everything and everything in its place. Their eyes may see in plain sight what you somehow overlooked. When Amy couldn't find her rings Timothy remembered seeing them in a container on the window sill over the kitchen sink. She had taken them off when she was making meatloaf. She didn't want to lose them.

I also start cleaning and organizing, mostly organizing. Chances are if you're losing things there may be some clutter in your life. Going through piles of newspapers, books, mail and so on may uncover things that were inadvertently buried. You may find things that you forgot about and gave up on. I was in the attic last weekend getting rid of enough stuff to make an area to walk through comfortably. I lifted up a stack of old magazines that had been sitting there unattended for several months. Oh My God, there was my digital recorder. I had just about given up ever finding it. I had given consideration to the fact that I may have accidentally thrown it out. It isn't very big. I got a fresh pair of AAA batteries and put them in since the other ones were dead. I listened to the last thing I recorded.

"I'm going to put some these old New Yorker magazines over here, for now...I'll be right back."

Amy found her car keys. She was carrying them in her hand.

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