Lost and found
My birthday is this month. I’ll turn 17. I can officially drop out of high school. I’m also an official pain-in-the-ass, no-good, hooligan, angsty teen. Not that I haven’t been driving my parents crazy for years. I’ve been doing that since the womb. I was a preemie, born about five weeks early, and during a snowstorm, to boot. I had to be under lights for the first couple weeks of my life, and let me tell you, I hated it. There are very few videos or pictures of me in my early days that don’t include me crying or screaming, trying to wriggle my way out from under those lights. I was so stubborn and angry that in my futile attempt to escape I rolled myself over at one day old.
When my mother tells that story, she says, “That’s when I first knew you were gonna be a problem child. You were just so mad and so fiery. You had just been born and already you were pissed at the world.” Of course, she always adds something about my dedication and how “you can do anything you set your mind to,” but the first part rings much more true. My father says that if I had been able I would’ve given them the finger, walked right out of that hospital and found myself an apartment.
But, oh my goodness, I would be lost without them. I’ve really come to realize this recently. I’m especially sentimental around this time of year. When I think of why I’m so grateful for my parents, I think of my 15th birthday.
I was an absolute wreck. I had lost my favorite pencil two days before and it was driving me up the wall. I get very particular about certain things, and pencils happen to be one of them. Unfortunately, when I lose things, I tend to spend long periods of time obsessing over them. They take up spacious residence in my mind until I find the items.
“Ma! Have you seen a blue Eagle Verithin number 704?” I shouted the morning before my birthday.
“Ma! Did you see my pencil in the living room?” I asked at breakfast.
“Ma, here’s what the pencil looks like:” I texted her at 11.
“Please tell me you’ve found it,” I said to her, in passing, at lunchtime.
“I’m gonna start praying,” I stated at 1. (I’m a devout atheist.)
“Phoebe!” My mother shouted up the stairs at 2.
“Did you find it?” I gasped, out of breath from flying down the stairs.
“No, hon. Put your dishes away.”
“Oh,” I said dejectedly, sulking into the kitchen.
“You’re driving me crazy,” she called after me, “and I’m worried you’re going crazy!”
The next day I awoke, not feeling in the festive spirit. It was a rainy mid-January morning. I stood outside to hide my tears. It turned to sleet. I went inside.
“Don’t you think you are being a tad bit dramatic?” my mother asked.
“No, mom. You wouldn’t understand.” I sulked back up to my room, shut myself in.
A few minutes later I heard the front door open and slam shut. An hour later, I heard it again and my mom entered my room.
“What?” I asked.
“Here,” she said, tossing me a plastic bag. In it were four blue pencils.
They were the wrong ones. But still, I was impressed. She had done her research. See, the pencil I had lost was from about 1960 or so, and the makers of the pencil had long since been bought up by another company, then another, and another. Now they are owned by Prismacolor. What I was holding in my hand was the Prismacolor version of that pencil. And that meant she’d had to do as much research as I had, which was quite a bit, given I was about a week into this rabbit hole of obsession. And she then had to find an art store that carried that particular pencil and drive there, on a national holiday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day, not my birthday). It was incredibly thoughtful.
The pencil I’d lost eventually turned up, about a month later, in a spot where I could swear I had looked three times. Admittedly, I haven’t used it in probably a year now, and I hope I wouldn’t let such a stupid obsession rule me these days, or that my parents wouldn’t enable me to obsess over such a thing. But it was, truly, the thought that counted.