Susanna Graham-Pye: Lost And Found

“Did you check lost and found?” 

When, as I do, you live most of your days alongside middle schoolers, those wonderful, wild people traveling the skittery suspension bridge between child and young adult, you say that phrase – “Did you check lost and found?” – a lot!

Did I say “check lost and found?”

The length and breadth of the trail left in the wake of 200-plus children is magnificent, filled with all the usual sweaters, sweatshirts, hats and mittens. But unexpected treasures too – beloved stuffed animals, food-filled lunch boxes (not anything I’d ever lose), pillows, field hockey sticks, single sneakers, dirty socks.

Middle schoolers aren’t alone, however, in the fine art of losing stuff. I’ve given up even trying to find where I’ve lost my just-filled coffee cup in the mornings. I just start another one instead of wasting time trying to find the first. The New York City’s Public Transport system has close to 200,000 items left on its system daily. The city of Tokyo’s lost and found system sees more than four million items a year.

But there’s more to lost and found than the tangible detritus we leave in our wakes. Profound losts and founds exist too, like the big environmental ones – we lose a species or habitat and find how much it meant to the survival web of the planet. We lose loved ones and find the horrible price of grief and loss. Big loss. Little loss. Tangible. Ethereal. Almost always the proverbial door closes, another opens – we find something. 

Have you ever noticed how we say “lost and found?” We say “check it,” or we say “go to,” as if it’s an actual destination or geographical locale, like the Island of Misfit Toys, or Neverland, a mystical realm populated with stuff – lost keys, missing earrings, memories of a gift received, hopes for healing a little heartbreak. 

This whole concept of lost and found lodged itself in my brain the other day driving around town doing errands. I noticed, with sadness, the missing cherry trees on Main Street we’ve lost over time. Thankfully, the sense of loss was offset with satisfaction by those sturdy trees still lining the edges of much of our landscape. I watch for the swelling of the cherry trees’ tips eagerly each year. However, this year, a year when the concept of renewal seems an extra achey need, well, it’s seemed to me to make those swelling buds all the more pregnant with promise.

What makes Orleans’ cherry blossom display so momentous lies in its transience. Almost without fail, each spring as the flowers emerge to fill the air with clouds of pure pink shimmer, a spring storm sweeps in off the seas. Lashing winds howl, bringing stinging rain sucked up from the still icy Atlantic, the smell of the salty deep permeates the gray chill as winter makes a last pass at our hopes. And then – the magic. The next day dawns, scrubbed clear, the sky a brilliant blue bowl hovering over the loosened pink petals of the trees. The swirling remainders of a seabreeze shake the branches sending showers of pink fluttering through the air, dancing down the sidewalks, skittering across lawns. The petals catch in your hair as you walk, brush your cheeks, and soften the edges of everything they touch.

I wonder each year if we didn’t have the storm, would the flowers last longer on the trees? I wonder each year, would I want them to last longer? That’s really the bigger question, and I’m pretty sure my answer is no. What’s lost? Perhaps a bit of time. What’s found? Tiny moments of pure perfection. 

We don’t say, “check lost and/or found.” We don’t call it lost or found. A trip to lost and found is not an either/or situation; it's a complete concept, a whole destination.  It’s lost and found. We lose things. Yes we do!We’ve lost a lot over the past year. And, we find things. I know I’ve found a lot I didn’t know I had in me this year, and I’ve watched so many others find strengths they didn’t know they owned. There is a lot of optimism in that tiny three-letter word in the place between lost and found. Here's to a spring full of ands.