I don’t lose things, material things, very often. Through countless travels and moves, I’ve kept a close hold on objects of meaning. Perhaps the rarity of the occurrence makes me regret the losing all the more, when it does occur. Certain things misplaced throughout my life still have the capacity to make me feel a little hollow when I think of them. Just this week I stood outside an airport crying, very uncharacteristically, over the loss of a confiscated pocket knife I had forgotten to remove from my purse. As I did so, I wondered why something so small and replaceable should result in more tears than the loss of things, people, and places of much greater significance.
Why, for instance, do I still feel guilty when I remember dropping and breaking a small animal figurine that I had as a child? Why have I been unable to let go of the memory of a pair of earrings that someone stole, a necklace I left in a hotel room, a tartan blanket lost in the mail, or that pocket knife?
Perhaps because the pocket knife reminded me of my father, the figurine of my mother, the earrings of a journey through Mexico, the necklace of my husband, the blanket of an old friend I haven’t spoken to in many years. The knife can be replaced, the figurine was lost in the jumble of childhood objects, I wouldn’t wear the earrings if I had them now, my husband bought me another necklace, and the blanket—well, that really is gone.
But it seems that even replacing the lost thing cannot efface the memory or effect of the loss itself. Still, why should a broken figurine matter more than a totalled car, or a lost blanket more than a lost friend? I don’t know. Perhaps because in losing these objects, I have also lost the memories they held in association.