It’s Always the Last Place You Look

Well, how stupid is that, anyway? Of course it is; why keep looking after you’ve found something that was lost? I’ve never taken any comfort from that saying—until this morning. Perhaps you can relate.

My friend Joan and I are taking our friend Trudy to San Francisco for a day in Golden Gate Park as a belated birthday celebration. I haven’t “done” the touristy thing in the City for close to thirty years, and was happily bustling around the kitchen packing my half of our picnic lunch, cheese, fruit, and an assortment of olives. Oh, yeah—the blanket; I was supposed to bring a blanket. I grabbed my keys from my bag, went out to the car and popped the trunk. I struggled my blue stadium blanket loose from its position as cover for the disintegrating upholstery of the back seat of my ancient Honda. I closed the trunk with a resounding thud, and turned my face to the early morning sunshine—a real treat after a couple days of rain and wind.

Back in the house I finished getting ready for our day, made my bed, and cleared the breakfast dishes. Rather than lug my usual Timbuk2 bag which carries everything I might conceivably need to get through a day (it’s a Virgo thing), I pared down the contents to a light travel size purse. Keys—where are my keys? They should be right here on the table where I put them after coming in from the car. They’re not. I glance at the clock. I have an hour.

My hearts start to pound; I can feel a line of sweat form on my forehead just below my hairline. These aren’t just my keys, these are MY KEYS—keys to my house, my car, my private practice, my agency office, my daughter’s house, my bicycle, even the deadbolt key to my deceased parents’ home in CO. Breathe, I instruct myself. In: one, two, three, four; out: one, two, three. Repeat. I’ve never actually had a panic attack, and from the reports of people who have, I don’t want to start now.

Okay. I’ll retrace my steps, starting with the car, for which I had to have my keys to open the trunk, right? I don’t have a minor in Critical Thinking for nothing. Nope, not in the trunk. I am a creature of habit; I would have laid the keys on the kitchen table when I came back in the house. Nope, not on the table—or under it, or on any of the chairs around it. Well, this is just nuts.

When my daughter Sara was little, we used to read a series of childrens books by Patricia Coombs. One of her favorites was Dorrie and the Blue Witch, in which Dorrie, a little girl witch, and her mother, known as The Big Witch, capture the mean Blue Witch in a jar. The Blue Witch is so upset she starts jumping around, throwing off sparks, and making noise like the buzzing of bees. I felt a lot like that as I rampaged though the house, opening closet doors, looking under furniture; checking and re-checking my pockets. I even looked in the refrigerator and freezer, just in case.

The phone rang. It was Joan, checking on a last minute detail of our day. “My keys! They’re gone!” My voice edged on hysteria. How could I leave for a day with something this huge hanging over my head? “Duplicates?” she wondered. Of course. I have an extra house key, so I can get in and out of my house. I have a car door key, but it doesn’t work in the ignition. I have an extra bike key. There you go; that’s it. “Have you looked…” and we went through the list of places I’d already looked.

When I hung up, I decided to take a moment to quiet my mind, slow my pulse, and calm my psyche. I turned to the same place I ask for protection and guidance (and sometimes a parking spot)—my honored ancestors, who I trust “have my back” and intercede when I’m completely in my own way. “Okay you guys,” (our relationship is as relaxed as when those relatives were still walking around in their earth bodies) “I need your help here.” Even I know that when you do the same thing over and over, you’re not going to get a different outcome. I’d been going over and over my steps since getting the blanket from the car. “Start back farther,” was the guidance that came from my slowly quieting mind.

Okay, I got up, put on my robe, had breakfast, found the cooler, assembled the things from the refrigerator, went out to the car… Whoa! I was in my robe; I hadn’t showered and dressed yet. Like a crazed woman, I jumped up off the couch and ran into the bathroom. I jammed my hand into the pocket of my robe hanging on the back of the door (the last place I would look), and felt the satisfying scrape of knuckle on metal.

I let out a whoosh of breath that I didn’t realize I’d been holding. “Thanks guys,” I sent an appreciative prayer into the universe. The rest of the day I spent taking in the splendor of nature in the park instead of obsessing about how my life was going to be inconvenienced by a missing ring of keys. And, yes, I’m getting duplicates.

AS A SPECIAL TREAT: I never know how long these things are available, so I wanted to share it with you this week. Sister Sus sent this link for those who like to doodle; it was so enthralling, I almost forgot to leave for work:


  1. skspight says:

    Thank goodness for our ancestors! I can just see them helping…Aunt Charlotte, maybe?