I spent last week in Hawaii with my husband, reading on the beach, eating tropical fruit, and being lazy. It was glorious. Meanwhile, several thousand miles away, Rob was having a pretty shitty week — even shittier than usual, from what I’ve pieced together. As a result (I assume), he emailed me toward the end of the week and asked if I’d bring him back a small good luck charm.
It was a fairly casual request, buried in the middle of an email about some much bigger things. I’m not even sure that he really expected me to follow through — but I did. It was a request I took pretty seriously because although I don’t really believe in luck, I do believe that we can create our own. If this object was going to be effective in creating some luck, it seemed like there ought to be some meaning attached, or at least a good story.
With somewhere between 36 and 48 hours to complete the good luck charm mission, there was a little bit of pressure. A carved sea turtle from the ABC Store just wouldn’t do. After some futile searching, I started to think that bringing something back — although that was the specific request — wasn’t necessarily the best way to approach the task. I took a mental inventory of the hatbox where I keep all sorts of sentimental memorabilia, knowing there had to be something that I could pass along.
Once I shifted my thinking, it seemed so obvious: a Mount Rushmore replica. My good friend and college roommate (and most recently, usher at my wedding) had given it to me more than ten years ago, after a road trip out west with his family. The obvious reason for wanting to pass it along to Rob is this:
But that would be too easy. There’s more to it. My Mount Rushmore is just a trinket, but it moved across the country with me and sat on my desk in Alaska throughout graduate school. It was my way of keeping one of my best friends close when I embarked on the scariest journey of my life and put Canada between myself and everyone and everything I knew and loved. That Mount Rushmore was there when I wrote my thesis, and also when I planned what to do next. It was a physical reminder of the people back home who, though not physically present, held me up and supported me every step of the way. That seemed like the kind of meaning that should be attached to a good luck charm.
So I was pretty disappointed when I returned home tonight and couldn’t find it anywhere. It wasn’t in my hatbox. It wasn’t in any of my desk drawers. It wasn’t in the chest where I keep the various odds and ends that I have no use for but can’t bring myself to discard. I couldn’t figure out what happened to it — I couldn’t imagine intentionally discarding it when I moved from Alaska back to the Lower 48, and I couldn’t imagine how it might have been lost in the move when so much superfluous crap made the journey.
I gave up and found something else to offer as lucky instead. The replacement wasn’t as perfect as the Mount Rushmore charm would have been, but I decided it would do. I took a shower, got into bed, discovered I’d been awake long enough that I’m beyond tired, and started writing this blog post. I was so irritated with myself over losing Mount Rushmore that at 1:30 a.m. I looked again. And sure enough, it was right where I’d initially expected to find it: in my hatbox, along with my dead grandfather’s glasses, the dried corsage from a high school prom, a plaster mold of my friend Jillian’s teeth, and Rob’s bracelet from the psych ward. It was at the bottom of the box, tangled up in a “bride to be” sash from my bachelorette party. Sometimes things feel like they’re gone when, in fact, they’re exactly where they should be.
I am so relieved to have found Mount Rushmore — not because I can’t bear the thought of living without it (that’ll happen once it’s passed on to Rob, obviously), but because I can’t bear the thought of being so careless with something that means so much. It’s just stuff, true…but it’s also more than stuff. Much more. Take good care of it, Rob.