Jeffrey and his friend Jerrod were walking around out in the lake, exploring. It is still very low and mostly just mud on our side, due to the low precipitation and a broken dam. (Don't even get me started on that...) I was in the kitchen, where I could look out and see them poking around in the muck, turning over logs to see what hid beneath. Looks like I'm going to have to launder his winter jacket already, the second time he's worn it this season.
The next thing I knew, there was a cacophony of stomping up the deck stairs, shouting and shrieking and muddy hands pounding on the doorwall. Breathless, they were both talking at once: "We found something!" "There's a driver's licence!" "It's a purse!" Jerrod produces a smeary card. "I used my pocket knife to rip it open and I got this out!" (File for later consideration: a 9 year old who carries a knife) I asked where the purse was now. "It's still in the mud! We'll get it out! We need help! TIM! TIM! Get your boots on!" Of course, when nine year olds need assistance, an authority, someone with skills beyond their own, it has to be...a twelve year old!
So they managed to ply the thing out of the muck and lay out the contents on our patio for inspection. Everything was soaked in mud and badly decomposed, but you could make out the contents: A case with some glasses, 2 sets of keys, a checkbook, a 10 dollar bill, loose change, a calculator, a velvet ring box (with a folded paper in it, no ring) a matchbook, makeup.
How very interesting, to be looking at someones possessions like this, uninvited and unexpected. It reminds me of the "Artifacts of the Titanic" exhibit we went to see downtown a couple of years ago. All of those personal objects, retrieved from the bottom of the ocean after so many years, from an event so haunting and dramatic. They seemed to speak the story of the people who once owned them, crossing time and distance to that moment, right there, when you are looking at them and thinking about it. Make me wonder what someone would think if they contemplated the preserved contents of my purse: Hey look a single gold hoop earring...
So here we have an actual mystery: What in the world was the purse doing there? The location of the find is actually in a place that is difficult to get to and unlikely for anyone other than migrating deer and exploring little boys to access. Ramona was over and joined in the speculation, wide-eyed. Here are the theories they considered:
A pick pocket absconded with it from the library to our lake
An animal got ahold of it and dragged it there
The woman was going to change her identity and pitched the purse to erase all evidence of her former self
A murder case...maybe she was buried in the muck along with her purse! (They went to check, no bones found)
Eventually, they agreed upon the one most plausible solution, to their childhood minds, which was, of course:
It must have been dropped from a hot air balloon flying over the lake, as they often do. Yes, that has to be it, they concluded.
Back in the house, the obvious first thing to do was go to the internet and check the National Registry of Missing Persons for the name from the license. Nothing. Next, I googled the name, looking for clues. Not much came up, but there were some videos posted under that name, mostly scenes from a drag race. I couldn't identify the location of the track. There was one video with people in it, a woman doing a silly dance...hey she just mooned the camera! I was trying to match her face with the tiny picture on the driver's liscence when Larry walked in holding the local phone book and dialing the cordless telephone. "I'm calling her." No answer.
Jerrod's father came to the door looking for his muddy son who enthusiatically related the whole exciting story. He asked if we had called the police. Um, no, but we could do that too, sure!
Well, eventually we did reach her on the phone and arranged for her to stop by the next day to pick up her purse. She explained that it had been stolen from her car when it was parked at the house two doors down from ours. Her son had borrowed her car and was over there visiting late at night. She was incredibly nice and certainly not the woman from the internet videos. She said it felt a little weird that strangers had looked in her purse (if only she knew!) So we handed her the plastic bags full of muddy purse contents and she handed each of the boys a gift card to ColdStone Creamery as a reward.
I have to wonder if this is one of those situations that the kids will recall someday when they are older and more tuned in to the realities of the world. When they'll look back at the situations that seemed so incredible and thrilling from a childish perspective, and sit around and recall them with a "hey, remember the time" and for a moment the magic is back. When everything was perceived with the possibility of adventure and excitement. For now we don't know, but the ice cream was really good.