When you lose something precious — then spend hours or days fruitlessly looking for it — it can feel as if the universe swallowed it. But sometimes, the universe surprises you.
For years, Clara Graves wore a diamond-and-ruby ring she and her husband, Ron Freudenheim, created as a copy of her great grandmother’s engagement ring. “For us it symbolized the past, present and future,” wrote Clara, of Silver Spring, Md.
Clara doesn’t wear her rings at night, preferring to keep them in a small decorative box.
“One night I took them off while still in the kitchen,” she wrote. “I walked to the bedroom with them in my left hand, jingling them as I walked, and put them in that little box. The next morning all the rings but the ruby and diamond ring were there.”
Clara tore the house apart looking for it. No luck. Ten years later, she was purging old financial records that were kept in a brown accordion folder.
“After shredding the lot, I picked up the folder to see if I’d missed anything,” Clara wrote. “There was the lost ring!”
I wonder if it was filed under D for “diamond” or R for “ring.”
The ring that Millie Hurlbut lost was her mother’s engagement ring. It flew off Millie’s finger when she grabbed the collar of her Rottweiler, Max, as the dog was racing to the front door to bark at some boys who were toilet-papering her daughter’s boyfriend’s car.
“When everything settled down, we went looking for the ring, to no avail,” wrote Millie, of Lanham, Md. “We looked everywhere we imagined it could have flown — even outside with flashlights. I was heartbroken, as my parents were married in 1932 and I have very few of my mother’s things.”
Seven years later, Millie got a call at work. It was her cleaning lady. She’d found the ring.
“It somehow ended up in the spine of one of my cookbooks,” Millie wrote. “She had pulled out these cookbooks many, many times, dusting them. I assume through the years it just worked its way out.”
Frankly, a diamond ring seems risky to me. The precious stone is perched precariously in soft metal tines. For example: One Friday afternoon, Kathy Murray was in her office when a friend of hers named Julie walked in, her face a portrait of heartbreak.
“She had lost the diamond from her ring,” said Kathy, a D.C. resident. Kathy recommended Julie say a prayer to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost things.
On Monday morning, Julie returned to Kathy’s office, this time beaming.
“She had gone to New York for the weekend and walked all over the city in her sneakers,” Kathy wrote. “As she put on her sneakers Monday to walk to the bus stop, she saw something glint in the tread of her shoe. It was her diamond. She had stepped on it on Friday and it stayed securely in her shoe all weekend, from one end of Manhattan to the other.”
When Linda H. Neary was growing up in Missouri, it was common for high schoolers to exchange class rings with their true loves.
“I took that step as well,” Linda wrote. “For some reason, my boyfriend did not have a ring to give to me.”
After a while, he didn’t have her ring, either. He’d put it in his gym bag during a pickup basketball game, he explained. When the bag was stolen, the ring was lost. Eventually, the relationship was over, too.
A decade later, Linda got a call at work from a man — a stranger — who said he had her ring.
“He had tracked me down by the name of the school, class year and my initials engraved on the inside, and with the help of the principal’s secretary,” wrote Linda, who now lives in Arlington, Va. She arranged to meet the man, who drove 150 miles to return the ring.
How had it come into his possession? He told the story: Ten years earlier, he’d been in a locker room playing an intense poker game. Another player had come up short on a raise and had tossed a ring — a girl’s class ring — into the pot. This disturbed the other players, who thought it just wasn’t right.
The man won the pot. He vowed to someday return the ring to its rightful owner, but when he got home, he threw it into a box and pretty much forgot about it.
When his wife came across the ring while decluttering before a move, she wanted it gone. Her husband went in search of Linda.
And the losing poker player? Linda thinks it was probably her no-good boyfriend. Sounds like he was better off in the lost column.
Tomorrow: More lost and found.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.