Yesterday, Jill, a secretary at one of the elementary schools on my route, pulled a Swiss Army knife out of a drawer. "Is this yours?" she asked.
Two weeks ago I'd lost that knife. It fell out of the watch pocket of my jeans. Every time I sat down it would fall out of my pocket, onto the floor. I didn't remember I'd been in the bathroom of that school, but someone had found it there and turned it in. Thank you, anonymous finder of my lost object. Thank you, Jill, for deducing it belonged to me.
I have this crackpot theory, that if something is truly ours it will come back to us. If it isn't, it won't. We've all had lots of objects disappear, never to be seen again. The ones attached to us, maybe by some invisible string, will find their way back. That's the case of the Swiss Army knife on the right, the one with the casing that keeps falling off, and the blade that's been whittled down by sharpening. My wife gave me that knife in 1987 or '88, and it's been lost several times, only to find its way home. Kind of like Lassie, only with an inanimate object.
The knife the secretary returned to me is the replacement for the older knife. I am compelled to carry two things every day, a pen and a pocketknife. Otherwise I'm naked to the world. For the half-dozenth time or so, three months ago I had lost my older knife. In every instance of loss, at some point it will return to me, but I still needed a knife, so I bought a larger knife and carried that for a while. The larger knife is actually too big for the watch pocket, hence the problem with it falling out. I've had a couple of those knives over the years, and they never come back when they're lost. I was completely surprised to get the larger knife back. See, the night before my older knife found its way back to me. I went into my downstairs studio. I have a wooden rocking chair, which used to belong to my mother-in-law, I use for watching TV or reading. My eye was caught as I walked in the room. There was my older knife in plain sight under the chair.
The thing that is most strange is that I sit in that chair every day at one point or another, even if it's only to tie my shoelaces. When I walk into the room I have a clear view of the chair, what's around it, and underneath it. For three months I didn't see the knife. Then I did. I was surprised, but pleasantly. I knew at some point it would return itself, just not when. Or how. What surprised me more was the next day I got its replacement back. So now I have two knives that return themselves to me. Since my OCD requires me to carry a pocketknife, while both of those knives were missing I had bought yet another knife, a Winchester pocket knife, which is in my watch pocket right now. The Swiss Army knives are in a box in my closet, and when I lose the Winchester I'll carry one of the Swiss Army knives again.
I first noticed the phenomenon of returning objects almost 35 years ago. My wife bought me what I requested for Christmas, a Rapidograph pen. For those of you who don't know, a Rapidograph is a technical pen with a non-flexible tip, out of which drawing ink flows in a uniform line. The tips come in various sizes. I wanted to use it for lettering my cartoons. At the time I would sit in an armchair with my drawing board in my lap. We had four cats always jumping on me, and I'd put the pen down on an end table and shoo away the cats. One day I went to use the pen and it was missing. I turned the house upside down, took every cushion off the furniture, looked everywhere, even places in the house I knew I'd never taken the pen. Finally, I gave up. But I was upset. In those days, buying a pen that cost $12 was really expensive for me, since I earned about $2.00 an hour.
One night about a month after losing the Rapidograph, I had a dream. In my dream I saw my refrigerator, and from underneath the refrigerator a signal was being emitted. It was loud in my head, a squealing sound. I woke up from my dream, went into the kitchen with a yardstick, put it under the fridge, and scooped out my Rapidograph pen. I thought then that one of the cats had batted it off its spot on the end table, played with it on the floor and it had rolled under the fridge. Simple. Except that it called out to me in a dream. You can argue it was because my mind was working on the problem of the missing pen, and solved it by coming up with the one place in the house I hadn't looked, and my logical mind would tend to agree with you. But my more romantic, non-pragmatic side would prefer to think that by some psychic bond between the pen and me, it had made its location known. I still have the pen.
The older Swiss Army knife kind of unnerves me. The way I suddenly saw it under the chair is spooky. We don't have cats currently living in our house. The thought of an inanimate object moving under its own power is too creepy to think about. But then, when something truly belongs to you, a loved one, an animal, an object, whatever, however it has to do it, it will find a way back to you.