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Lost in Winter’s Memory

First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript January 21, 2015

I stared shivering at the giant sports field. It was a vast expanse of dead winter grass and snow-crusted clumps.
“Ok,” I took a deep breath. “So, when the fire drill started, you marched outside and stood in lines. Where was the fifth grade?”
My older daughter, who stood shivering next to me, took off towards a soccer goal.
“And,” I turned to my younger daughter who stood ready for her part in our historical reenactment, “where did the second grade stand?”
She marched off in the other direction so that they stood about 20 yards apart.
Somewhere, in between them, was a dangle earring approximately the color and shape of . . . a blade of grass.

The girl’s school had an unplanned fire drill the day before. You may recall the day because it began with a temperature of -3 and rose to a balmy 1 degree by mid-morning. My youngest daughter’s class was at lunch, far from their coats, when it occurred. So the teachers flung random coats and jackets at the children as they proceeded out from the potentially burning building into the certainly frostbitten air.
My daughter ended up in a light fleece that belonged to a much smaller girl and, when my older daughter saw her clad for a spring day instead of the deep freeze, she took off her own scarf and walked it over to her.
An act of sisterly love and kindness! A moment of selfless compassion! A big sister looking out for her little sister. Be still my motherly heart.
But as the eldest explained, “When I took off my scarf, my earring fall out – – the earring Grandma got me in Alaska.”
Sigh, my motherly heart. What did I say?? Life wasn’t fair? Do the right thing regardless of the consequence? Don’t get attached to material possessions?
Yes, yes, fine, fine. Meta-narrative parenting moment noted. But what I really wanted was to find my daughter’s, grass-shaped, lost earring!!
We recreated the scene, we reenacted the transfer of the scarf, and we scoured the area.
“I think I was standing on yellowish grass,” my older daughter said.
 “And I was by this piece of trash,” claimed the youngest.
“Maybe I just walked across yellow grass but stood on green. I know for sure the soccer goal was behind me,” my older daughter expounded.
“I thought I saw you closer to the fence because I walked across that puddly spot . . .maybe the third grade was by the trash,” my younger daughter clarified.
The fire drill happened the day before. The entire school had been essentially plunked down in Antarctica for ten minutes. The sirens! The cold! The flurry of jackets! It was dramatic and extreme – – and neither of them could remember a single useful thing about it.
I felt like I was in the recent Serial podcast trying to recreate the crime-day timeline with witnesses who seemed incapable of describing any part, of any event, in the same way.
The next day, my girlfriend lent me her metal detector (she’s one of those people who always owns the exact bizarre item you need). So the girls and I headed back out. But it had snowed and the slushy mix had frozen and the detector kept beeping at sheets of ice.
I tried to break up the ice with my heel and a nearby stick. Was there a glint of metal in the muddy grassy mix?? I felt a little obsessed.
And here’s the thing, I still feel a little obsessed. Because Regular Reader, there is no happy ending. It may come as a shock to you, but we were unable to find the grass-shaped earring in the gigantic grassy field.
We did manage to go to Orange Leaf for some conciliatory frozen yoghurt. And like all things in the Tri-Towns right now, we wait for the days to grow longer and the ground to thaw and the sun to warm us like our memories surely remember correctly.