Lost and Found: St. Anthony and the Sock Pile

Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic write, speak and blog together as The Word Mavens.

These days, we find ourselves losing things. We leave a half-full mug of coffee in the linen closet when we go to get clean sheets. We have two sets of car keys in case we misplace one. At the ATM we have to remind ourselves to “take the bank card, take the bank card” before we walk away.

We’re women of a certain age. We’re confused, distracted and forgetful. It sounds better to us when we describe it with Yiddish adjectives: We’re farchadat, farblondjet and farmisht. Those three words mean some version of lost and confused. When we multitask, we can’t keep track of the multis. That’s why when we get a screwdriver from the basement, walk upstairs, check our email, pick up the sneakers strewn in the hallway, and turn off the bathroom light, we find ourselves asking, “What did we need a screwdriver for?”

Our neighborhood is a minefield of people who think they know us. “Friends” greet us by name, ask about our children and say, “See you at the meeting next week.” Who are these people? What meeting are we missing? Scientists predict that one day virtual reality contact lenses will allow us to identify the person in front of us. This will come in handy at future cocktail parties to help future us identify who we’re talking to.

Who was the funny actor married to Anne Bancroft? We don’t recall, and we worry that forgetting people’s names, losing car keys and misplacing cups of coffee are signs of dementia. It reassured us when we learned recently that if you can remember what you forgot – even days later – it’s not dementia.

Mel Brooks! See, we’re okay!

It’s frustrating to lose things. It’s embarrassing to admit that we simply forgot to meet you for lunch. And even more embarrassing that we couldn’t find our cellphone to call you to apologize. We’ve developed these strategies to cope with memory lapses and missing things.

We let it go and hope it will eventually turn up: There is a theory that lost items disappear to a huge pile somewhere and eventually just come back. If that’s the case, our piles contain at least 19 socks, extra car keys and teaspoons. Perhaps when Queen Elsa sang “Let It Go” in the movie Frozen, she was simply hoping her white fur mitten that went missing in the snowstorm would come back from the pile.

We seek spiritual guidance: Catholics have a patron saint devoted to helping them find lost objects. St. Anthony, a Franciscan friar, first demonstrated his skill when he prayed for the return of a stolen book – and it appeared. Since then his fame has grown, and so has his portfolio of found objects. Italian grandmothers swear by the short rhyme: “Something’s lost and can’t be found/Please, St. Anthony, look around.” These days, one group of Franciscan friars accepts prayer requests to St. Anthony via text message. We have their number somewhere.

We recently discovered that Judaism offers lost and found help, too, and the boss doesn’t delegate the work to an associate. A prayer from the Book of Genesis asks God for assistance in finding a lost object: “All are presumed blind until The Holy One, blessed be He, enlightens their eyes.” But do we really want to bother God about the missing soup ladle?

We buy a new one: We can’t go without our reading glasses, so when we lose a pair we buy a replacement, put it on the desk and then find the missing pair waiting there. Joseph should have heeded this advice when his brothers stole his coat of many colors. Even though he went on to fame and fortune in Egypt, he never replaced his favorite coat.

We have a theory that many of the items in a school’s Lost and Found end up there on purpose. No one’s going to claim that oversized pink sweatshirt with the glitter unicorn. We believe this because we’ve “lost” things, too. When an aunt came to dinner and asked why we weren’t using the tiered, pressed glass cake stand she gave us in 1982, we lied and told her it was lost. We hope she doesn’t know how to use eBay because she’ll find thousands of “lost” ugly cake plates there.

We take supplements and play brain games: We considered Ginkgo biloba, which is purported to cut down on memory loss, but we’d have to remember to take the pill. Instead we eat blueberry muffins because blueberry flavonoids are supposed to activate parts of the human brain that control memory. And we love muffins.

Experts also say that word puzzles keep the mind active. That’s why we do the crossword puzzle in the newspaper every day. What’s the answer to 4 across? A 5-letter word for “not misplaced.” Oh yeah. FOUND.

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2 thoughts on “Lost and Found: St. Anthony and the Sock Pile”

  1. Ah yes! St. Anthony of Padua, finder of lost things. Maybe if I ask him, he’ll find my stapler for me. It doesn’t matter that I have already replaced it. I’m just dying to know where in this little apartment of mine I could have put it and why it is now hiding from me.

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