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I lost it on the road

I had just put in my request for a table at the Penny Cluse Cafe, which serves the best breakfast in Burlington, Vt. and among the best we’ve enjoyed in more than 30 years of travel, when I looked at my right wrist and saw that my bracelet was missing. Not just any bracelet but a gift from my husband—a wide yet nearly weightless band of linked chrome beads that draped like silk on my skin.

No one had ever seen a bracelet like mine. From the checkout clerk at my local green grocer to a gold-bedecked philanthropist, every woman I met exclaimed at its offbeat elegance. Before I owned that bracelet, I never felt the need to wear anything at all on my wrist. Afterwards, I felt naked without it.

I pictured the bracelet on the vanity of the hotel room we’d just vacated, in a jumble of towels and toiletries. Good thing we had to wait for our table at Penny Cluse—we could nip over to reclaim my treasure and be back in time to decide between blueberry ginger pancakes and the egg/chorizo tacos with guacamole and black beans. En route, I rang the desk clerk, who could have led a doctoral seminar in customer service. She had one of those audible smiles that assure you nothing matters more than your problem. Lost bracelet? She’d dispatch the head of housekeeping to retrieve it pronto.

Not a week before, I’d been feeling pretty chuffed about our road trip through the northeast. For once we’d managed to get away without leaving any must-haves behind in Toronto. Cell-phone recharger: check. Prescription sunglasses: check. Meds we wouldn’t want to replace in a small town after hours: check. We had been there but not this time.

It was in the aptly named Hicksville, New York that stuff began to slip through our fingers. My husband’s Canadian credit card, which has been honoured at the poshest of restaurants in Beijing and Buenos Aires, didn’t cut it at the Hicksville Mobil station. He vowed to take his business elsewhere—and did, lickety-split. But by the time he filled up down the road, it suddenly struck him that his glasses—last seen on the roof of the car at the Mobil station, where he had left them in a moment of distraction—were neither on his nose nor in his shirt pocket.

They had to be at Mobil. On top of the gas tank, perhaps. Or next to the cash register. Or at the very least, on the blistering asphalt, reduced to shards of glass and bent metal. We did everything but crawl across that asphalt on our hands and knees. Not a trace of the glasses turned up.

On we pressed to East Hampton to visit my sister and her family in a waterfront beach house. There in the guest bedroom closet I left behind my good pants from Saks Off Fifth and a T-shirt the colour of lime sherbet. Oh, well, it could have been worse. Once at a spa in Utah, we left half my husband’s wardrobe in a closet—and waited many weeks for the concierge to mail it back. The team at our Burlington hotel would never be so slipshod.

Hot on the trail of my missing bracelet, I burst into the lobby with my hand outstretched. The desk clerk looked grave, as if she were about to console the survivor of a fatal accident. The head of housekeeping was scouring the room as we spoke. Still no sign of the bracelet.

I crawled on the floor. I peeked under the bed. I checked the garbage while Mr. Housekeeping sent his number two to shake out every sheet in the laundry. Mr. Housekeeping had a gentle voice and an honest face. I like to think that if he found my bracelet, he’d know how its owner would miss it. That someone found it I don’t doubt for a minute. And that person must have thought, “How pretty. Finders keepers.”

I should really hit the road with a throwaway wardrobe that goes straight to Goodwill on my return. By way of bracelets, I should get a tattoo—or stick to the wire loop that my niece Birtukan, who just graduated from kindergarten, decorated with multi-coloured plastic beads. It’s not as if I’ve got anyone to impress while playing mini-golf and eating fried clam bellies. But I have this need to travel with my citified surface intact. And then I mark my trail with parts of it—a silver earring at the airport in Chicago, a white cashmere sweater draped over a chair at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas, a chrome bracelet on a plastic tray at a hotel in Burlington, Vermont. I don’t know if I’m a part of all that I have met. But my stuff sure is.

One of these days I’ll have the serenity to tell myself, “It’s only stuff.” But not yet. So thank goodness for breakfast. When I’m halfway through a plateful of egg/chorizo tacos at Penny Cluse and still have a homemade biscuit to enjoy, my world can’t be anything but right.

Click here to read “Looking for Mousie,” in which my child’s loss of a beloved stuff toy brought me face to face with my own unresolved losses.





Posted by Rona

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