February 26, 2013

Third time's the charm

A half mile of the main street downtown was closed for the annual art fair last weekend. Food, music, 
and rows of art booths stretched all the way to the bridge. I used to cover it every year for the daily 
paper back in the day. Last year, I went there with a neighbor couple for the first time in some time. 
Jim and I soon found a beer and pizza outlet and camped out there while Carly drifted away to shop the 
tents. She came home with a haul of jewelry and assorted chachkas for the house. Some months later 
she got a call from her credit card company to verify whether she had purchased an expensive treadmill 
in Tampa. Of course she had not. Her credit account was promptly terminated and a new one opened in 
its place. Carly suspected it was one of the itinerant “artists”, from the fair, who had tried to leverage 
her credit to fraudulent advantage. I told her I had been contacted by mine once, on the occasion of a 
suspicious purchase. We joked about there being some computer algorithm that could identify our 
spending habits, and spot an aberration. She and Jim stopped by Saturday morning to ask me to join 
them again this year, but I declined, having not quite surfaced from my morning fog. Carly took cash 
with her this time.

One year I bought an ingenious little object there that caught my fancy - a dragonfly made from 
assorted metal objects - butter knife wings, legs made of nails, a ball-bearing thorax, and an alligator 
clip tail. A friend of mine once picked it up to admire it. Seeing the alligator clip, he said “I know what 
this is for.” No, it had never occurred to me that it was a roach clip.

Saturday afternoon, the little girl who visits her grandmother upstairs, knocked excitedly at my door to 
show me her new treasure. Previous gets that her grandmother had bought for her, and that she had 
been eager to show off, included a zebra pillow, a kiddie “iPad”, a blood orange, and a headband with 
kitten ears that lit up. This time they had been to the fair where Nana had bought her a little silver 
ring that represented a stylized crucifix. 
“Look!” she said, “if you look at it upside down it looks like an airplane.” 
Indeed it did. In a moment of exultation, she threw it up in the air and cupped her hands for the catch - 
but it bounced away, over the second floor balcony, and landed in the grass below. She looked at me, 
shocked. “Oh no!” Then she took off and ran downstairs. I thought I saw a faint glint of silver in the 
grass below, and fixed my eyes there. 
“Help me find it, Joe!” 
I guided her toward the glimmer: “You’re getting warmer... warmer. Go left. Colder. Back up. Warmer. 
Move your hand to the right...” 
She brushed the grass in the area with her hand, and the glint disappeared. 
“I lost it,” I said. 
She sat back on her haunches, and looked down sadly at the grass. 
I went downstairs to join her. On hands and knees we resumed the search, picking through the stiff, 
runner-laced floritam. No luck. She took off her shoes and began to step gingerly around. “My dad 
taught me this,” she said. But it seemed unlikely that the tiny object, more ethereal than the grass it was 
hiding in, would reveal itself to her little soles.
“We’re probably driving it deeper into the grass,” I cautioned.  
It was beginning to look hopeless. I started scanning my meager library of comforting wisdom. 
Suddenly I remembered something my brother taught me from our Catholic youth. A prayer for lost 
“Ok,” I said. Here’s what we do. Say Jesus was lost and found, three times." 
She shut her eyes immediately. Folded her hands in prayer. “Jesus was lost and found three times,” she 
said. “Jesus was lost and found three times..."
Classic. I had to laugh. But yes. It’s the thought that counts, isn’t it. And the heart.
What’s this? A glimmer? A glimmer in the grass? Of course it was. I pulled the little ring out and held it 
“Look what we found.”
We stood up. She put the ring on her finger. She threw her arms around me. 
“Thank you Joe!”
And she scampered off, the way an eight year old does, ears brightly lit, and without a care 
in the world.