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Suburban Island

Lost and Found
Friday, Jan. 31, 2003, 7:32 p.m.

Question: When is a sweater not just another sweater?

What I Learned: Never buy just one sweater.

Sometimes we lose things in our household. All the normal comings and going of our family can create a certain amount of reorganization of personal possessions that can be a catalyst for adventure in our house. Reactions vary Ė one may be daunted, another may find it an opportunity for improvisation. One may find it a fine dramatic moment; another might consider it a delightful change of pace. These views on the matter can rotate according to whose lost item is currently in process.

For instance, today we lost a sweater. Not just any sweater, mind you, but a special sweater. A sweater for running that, evidently, absorbs sweat like nobodyís business. It is also, sadly, the only one of its kind in our house. This is my husbandís special running sweater. I guess he really likes it a lot because we all had to stop whatever we were doing at the moment he discovered it was missing this afternoon, and participate in an impromptu sweater-location op.

I try to think of it as a game as I unglue myself from some much more important (read Ė amusing) task to help out. Itís certainly a versatile game and good for those with a tight entertainment budget too. You donít have to have a board, or game pieces, or instructions, or a computer to play it. Furthermore, you can get it going anywhere by simply running about the house opening drawers, cupboards, closets, and so on and saying rather loudly, ďwhere is it?Ē over and over again with a rather stricken look on your face.

Itís also a game that taps into the family togetherness concept because basically nobody can enjoy himself or herself again until the missing item is located. The whole family can either join in or listen to a series of mournful recitations of the recent history of the lost item Ė when was it last seen, where was it before that, various detailed descriptions of the item, and maybe just for good measure, a story about how it came to live with us in the first place.

ďTell you what, from now on Iím going to lock up all my stuff where no one can get at it,Ē is mumbled to no one in particular. Constant inquiries are put to household members that run along the where-were-you-on-the-night-of-January-30th theme. Thinly veiled accusations abound Ė are you sure you didnít wear it/wash it/borrow it/pile it/dry it/hang it/look at it/hold it? Didnít I see you near it/around it/by it/next to it?

The family members that are more go-with-the-flow in approach try to offer help. They say things like: itíll turn up, why donít you just wear something else (my personal favorite), donít look at me (what Iíd like to say), and weíll find it eventually (the general consensus of the household). One of my more enterprising children asks: How much money will you pay me to find it? All suggestions that another sweater be worn are firmly resisted. It seems that nothing else would do. Not the other running sweater as it was too heavy. Not my XL long-sleeved 100% cotton t-shirt Ė not enough sweat absorbing qualities I guess (lucky for me, perhaps).

Given the dynamic movement of personal belonging within our home, I believe that flexibility is the order of the day. I would have thown on something else and said whatever. Of course, itís not my sweater is it?

Wait a minute, where'd that new CD go - the one I just bought this past weekend. Did you take it up to your room? I know you took it out to your car. No, I can't listen to something else. Don't say wait a minute - we have to find it right now or who knows when I'll ever hear it again.

I have found flexibility to be a subjective sort of thing.

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