I’m a loser.
Well. I mean. I lose things. Technically, that makes me a loser.
Although if you were to Google “can I call someone who always loses things a loser”, the universal answer to this question (or at least the answer found in the top five results, which might as well be universal) is no. I know this, because I Googled it. All five results tell you to use the terms “absent-minded” or “forgetful” when describing someone who always loses everything. Because “Loser will never be taken to mean someone who loses things. Instead, people will think you mean 1. A person that loses or has lost something, especially a game or contest. 2. A person who accepts defeat with bad grace 3. A person that is put at a disadvantage by a particular situation or course of action.
But, of course, I mean all that, too. They seemed to be pretty much wrapped up in the “person who loses things” thing. “Absent-minded” and “forgetful” just don’t quite cover it.
I’m a loser.
The first thing I can remember losing - and really hating myself over the losing - was a jean jacket. I was in the third grade. It was one of those oversized jean jackets that the teenagers on 90210 made look so cool in the nineties. I would have known this if I had been any older than eight and/or been allowed to watch 90210. I didn’t know this. But I knew the jacket made me feel cool - which is perhaps a testament to the power of jean jackets rather than the starlets that flounce around in them. Maybe the jean jacket made 90210 and not the other way around. Anyways, I felt like the jacket made me. The cuffs rolled up just once so you saw the back of the button, that stainless steel grommet on the outside of my wrists. I liked to wear it to church over a dark blue dress dotted with small daisies. The dress was long and skimmed the top of my tie up boots - brown leather and reaching mid-calf - they made me feel like a cross between American Girl’s Felicity, Anne of Green Gables and TV’s Blossom. This seemed like the ideal combination. (I wasn’t allowed to watch Blossom, either.)
I realized the jacket was missing on a Tuesday and stared into the dark every night about it until the following Monday. When the anxiety had mounted to the point of panic, I called my dad into my bedroom. It was late and Mom had already gone to bed. I gave him the speech I’d been rehearsing to my pillow for an hour.
“Dad,” I started to cry. I always cried when I said his name before I was about to reveal a problem, maybe because of relief, maybe because of shame, “Dad, I haven’t been able to find my jean jacket. I am so sorry and I know it was wrong of me to lose it. I know it cost so much money. I loved that jacket but you don’t have to buy me a new one. I can wear sweaters until we get a new jacket next year.”
I thought my speech was very grown up and self-sacrificing. Everything a meaningful confessional ought to be. Never mind that the southern california winter rarely required a long sleeve shirt, let alone a sweater. And never mind, that somewhere in my truly penitent brain, I knew he would buy me another jacket if I really, truly needed one.
He looked serious. At the time I thought it was because of my infraction, but as a parent now, I think he was worried about my level of distress.
“Megs, I just saw your jean jacket in the back of the car yesterday. It’s under a few bags. I’ll bring it in the morning.”
Some things aren’t lost, I just don’t always know how to find them.
Memory is a funny thing. I’m actually not sure if he called me “Meggi” or “Megs”. And now that I think of it, I’m not sure which he called me every other time, either.
Of course, I’ve lost lots of other things that were never recovered. Books and assignments and clothing and the hours, days, years I should have spent in classes in college. College. I guess there I lost things I never had. I don’t regret the time I didn’t spend in classroom. But I suppose I regret the books I didn’t read, the conversations I didn’t have, the tests I didn’t fail and the classes I didn’t just barely pass. I can feel gaps in my mind that maybe would have been filled during those years. Maybe not. I’ve lost the right to know one way or the other.
I’m pretty sure he called me “Megs”.
Riley had to get used to all my losing when we got married. I am still trying to get used to his keeping. Or at least trying to feel like I deserve it. I’m not sure you should ever get used to someone like Riley.
I’ve lost jewelry he’s given me and notes written on the inside of books and backs of lists. I’ve lost things that matter and things that don’t. I lost his trust once...but he didn’t wait long to return it to me. He’s lost mine, too. I waited a little while to give it back, but not because I could not find it. It was one thing I hadn’t misplaced. It felt heavy and hot in my hand.
I lose things the children hand me and things they leave upturned outside. Homework and love notes and three leafed clovers they pretend are four. The kids in their classes know me - or at least the top half of me - because I am always leaning in through their classroom doors with lost lunches or homework or sharing time toys. I think they think I am “forgetful” or “absentminded” in those moments - they don’t know the achievement I feel over something found. I’m not a loser then. I’m a finder.
I know I’ll lose the girls someday. In a few different ways. I’ve lost their babyhood, their toddlerhood, their unquestioning eyes peering over the plastic of a bottle as they suck, suck, suck. Soon I’ll lose their childhood, and teenagehood and voices across the hallhood. I tell myself each loss is followed by a gain. But I’ve lost enough to know this is sometimes true and then again always isn’t.
They’ll lose me, too. We don’t dance in the kitchen as often anymore. Sometimes I think it’s because they’re getting older. Other times I know it’s because I’ve lost that piece of myself. Which means they’ve lost it, too.
Maybe it’s in the back of the car, under a few bags.
Right now, I’m looking for a piece of paper with a name on it. I was supposed to add the name to a list of women in my church. It’s my job to keep the names up to date so we can email them and call them and keep them close to God and woman and man and child. I can’t find the name and I can’t remember it and I want to say, “I can’t be my sister’s keeper because I can’t even keep myself.” But I won’t say that because I hope it’s not true.
I think maybe he called me “Meggi”.