I have lost several things recently, beginning with my keys. Next, just as I planned to write a short post about my beloved backscratcher, I lost that, too.
Lost: Pink wooden backscratcher, approximately 42 years old. Sentimental value.
I bought that backscratcher when I was about 10 years old, from the Shoppe of John Simmons at Thru-Way Plaza in Winston-Salem. Carved wood painted hot pink, it was probably made in India. I never scratched my back when I was 10, but I think I bought it because it was affordable on a 10-year-old’s allowance, and it represented the exotic atmosphere, the bright colors, and the spicy smells of the Shoppe.
I owned that backscratcher for decades. It went with me to Kentucky, to Florida, to Missouri, and came back with me to North Carolina in January. I had it on the shelf of the closet I used at my parents’ house. Then I decided to write about it, so on Labor Day evening after a cookout I fetched it, scratched my back, and then carried it and a pile of other stuff to the car. Ernesto was also carrying things—dishes, and tomatoes, and apples. I believe that my load included the backscratcher, my purse, a bag with leftover chocolate cake inside, an envelope filled with old family slides, and maybe a container of fishing worms, although I’m not clear on that. Anyway, we drove the one-half mile to our house and unloaded our things. The backscratcher was not among them. I searched the car, checked the bag with the cake, walked around in a circle, and called my mom. “Send a posse out to check the yard for my pink backscratcher,” I said. I think it sounded every bit as bossy as it looks in print.
Sadly, the backscratcher was never found. Maybe I left it on the back of the car, when I set my purse down to dig out my keys. If so, perhaps it was flung from the car when we turned onto the road from the driveway. Which means that the Johnson dogs across the way are probably scratching each other’s nasty backs with it right now, or using it as a toothpick deep inside their loathesome den.
Over the years that backscratcher had become a sort of curiosity, or a relic. Certainly it was the oldest thing I had ever purchased and still owned. It had also become more useful as a tool, since I can no longer twist and flex comfortably to scratch my own back. Every time I used it, I thought fondly about the Shoppe of John Simmons. So a year or two ago I decided to concentrate the powers of the Internet on the question of whether the Shoppe still existed. It did not. But I discovered something much, much better.
Found: John Simmons, author of Dark Angels: How Writing Releases Creativity at Work.
John Simmons’ book has been far more useful than my backscratcher ever was. And since my backscratcher pointed the way to him with its stiff, curled fingerbones, and thus to The Writer blog and his other books, I should be philosophical about losing the backscratcher itself. I use John Simmons every single day in my work—especially his advice to imagine the lives of your readers (whoever they may be) and show them compassion. I do try. It may not be obvious, but I do.
Two days after losing the backscratcher by motor vehicle, we pulled the exact same trick. Ernesto put his tape measure and utility knife on the back of the car, and later we drove off, apparently flinging them out into the universe, never to be found. Worse, I seem to be unable to find an envelope of important photos. I thought that they would be easily located, because they were IMPORTANT, but so far I haven’t found them. That’s one of the perils of moving. I know they’ll probably turn up eventually, but it is very aggravating in the meantime, and the only thing that keeps me from despair is that for every item lost, there seems to be something found. Like the red feather that Ernesto found over the weekend and presented to me. Or the young pine cones, glossy green as enamel with tiny stars of shining sap found beneath the clothesline. Small treasures that help to fill the gaps of loss.
What have you found?