Did you ever lose something that you really cared about?
I'm not speaking figuratively, like about losing your innocence, or about something important, like losing someone you love. I mean an object - maybe even a small and dumb object - that you lost and really want back.
Like a blue fleece jester hat from Eastern Mountain Sports. Which you owned for decades and fit you perfectly and even jingled when you walked.
You're getting the idea, right?
I lost my all-time favorite fleece hat. It was soft and perfect, even if it looked funny, which was the point. It was shaped like a court jester hat, with three floppy flaps coming out of the top and a bell on the end of each. Actually, two of its three bells had fallen off, but it was doing fine with the one. It had been washed 384 times but never pilled or lost its bold cobalt color, like a blue M&M for the head.
In short, it was a great hat, and I owned it for 22 years. I bought it two husbands, three dogs, and one college junior ago.
Tell you how I lost it. I was walking the dogs in February and it was cold enough to wear the hat. Then I got warm, took it off, and stuffed it in my coat pocket. But when I got home, I realized it had fallen out.
At first I thought, no problem. I was sure it would still be on the road where I'd dropped it. I walk around the same block every day, around really pretty farms. The walk is two miles long, and it takes an hour - or one gabby cell-phone call. Where I walk, there are only rarely cars. If I see four cars in an hour, that's a lot.
So I hurried back, retracing my steps and dragging the dogs, who whined the whole time because they're big drama queens, especially the corgi.
But my hat wasn't on the road anywhere. Or at the curb or in the brush. Only 10 minutes later, it was gone.
Then, there in the middle of the road with the dogs panting, I flashed on an odd thing that had happened during the walk that day. A pickup truck had gone by with two men in the front seat, and the driver was laughing at the passenger, whom I couldn't see. At the time, I'd actually thought, isn't it nice that people are having fun?
Little did I know what they were laughing at.
Then I realized.
They took my hat! The passenger must have seen it on the road and picked it up, instantly realizing its perfection, as anyone would. And he must have put it on, making the driver laugh, the two of them unable to believe their great good fortune in finding the Hat of the Century.
Of course, later I drove around the block in the car, calling into the wind. No hat. For days after, I checked for it every time I walked. No hat. I couldn't believe my hat was gone for good. I kept expecting it to turn up. I had entered the first stage of grief. Denial.
Then I said to myself, you lost your hat, so replace it. But I searched every store and online, EMS and others, and they don't make it anymore.
Time went by, seasons changed, and I tried to get over it. I thought, you're an adult, so you shouldn't care so much about a dumb hat with only one bell. In fact, find the lesson in it. Learn to let go of hats you love. Get some perspective. I even told myself that the hat, which was magical, made me happy, and now it's making other people happy.
Even if they are BAD people who KEEP THINGS THAT DON'T BELONG TO THEM, which should be a major felony!
The second stage of grief is anger, and boy, was I angry.
The third stage is bargaining, and I couldn't find anyone to bargain with. I suspect that God and Eastern Mountain Sports may have bigger concerns.
The fourth stage is depression but that's no fun at all, so I turned to books for guidance. According to Bartlett's Quotations, a guy named Herodotus said, "Of all possessions, a friend is the most precious."
In my opinion, Herodotus misses the point. I have friends, but I still want my hat. A friend can't keep your head warm.
I read a lot of other philosophers, who insist that possessions don't matter and the material world falls away and blah blah blah. None of them persuaded me. What a bunch of goody-goodies. Didn't they ever lose anything?
Or more accurately, didn't they ever have something TAKEN FROM THEM by MEAN PEOPLE driving around the block?
The final stage is acceptance, but I'm stuck in anger.
And I'm staying here until I get my hat back.
Lisa Scottoline is a best-selling author, most recently of "Daddy's Girl." She can be reached at www.scottoline.com.