Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Five Memorable... Ones that got away

Regret is a sad and crippling emotion. It is something that eats away at the present. "Oh why didn't I do/buy/say that when I had the chance!" Regret bugs us; it keeps us from being satisfied with the reality we have created by our choices. It is the longing that makes us wish for a time machine, to go back and have a do-over. But time only flows in one direction. We create what our lives become. And even if we have few choices in what happens to us, we have infinite choice in how we respond.
I don't have regret over very many things. I was always aware, at least when I was an adult, that I was living life the best I knew how and making the best choices I was able to at the time. Hindsight is worth nothing, unless you use it to help guide future actions. On all of the ones that slipped away, there was that small time window that things could have gone differently. Or not. Maybe they were impossible, choice was an illusion. But that doesn't mean there is no feeling that you lost a chance, for good or ill--you'll never know.

The Painting

I think it was 1992, and it must have been in the summer time because the Yolo County fair was going on. We were living in Davis at the time because my husband was going to the university there. The fair, in Woodland, had free admission, which was wonderful because I had 3 little kids, and we were always looking for fun things to do in our budget. We did go to other county fairs when the girls were small, but I am almost sure it was this one.

I really enjoy fine art, and my daughter Bethany, was also interested in painting and art. We ended up browsing a good long while in the fine arts building, ending with the paintings. They were well done, awkward, pretty, fun, and sometimes funny. At the end, we looked in a smaller area where the paintings from the professionals were hung for the competition. And I saw my favorite painting of the day. It was on a large canvas, and the background was black, or very dark blue. The moon hung, large and luminous near the center, personalized with a face. To the left sprang a vibrant orange cat, shimmering electrically with myriad colors that created its hue. There were other objects floating in the painting that I don't recall now, 21 years later.

Oh, but I wanted that painting! It made me feel mysterious, just looking at it. We stared at it for a good long while. These paintings were for sale. Just maybe, maybe the artist didn't quite understand how wonderful the painting was. I looked at the tag. $2,000. Or was it 4? In any case, yes, she knew.
I could never have bought that painting; I had to let it go. But my feeling over it made a connection that has kept me wondering, who has it now? Where is it? What else did she paint? But since I don't remember her name, I don't think I'll ever know.

The CalGrant

When my husband started college, with a wife and 3 little kids, we scrabbled for every bit of financing we could come up with. He applied for grants, student loans, took multiple part-time jobs and cashed out the smaller life insurance policy. One of the coveted awards was the CalGrant A. One of the things they looked at was grade point average. While he was in the community college, his grades were excellent, in spite of the rigorous and demanding program.

One day we got the lovely letter. He had been awarded a CalGrant! $2,000! But it could only be used at the university level, so I tucked the letter away in my files and waited for that time to come.
Once at Davis, we waited for our financial aid packet to become available. But when it did, there was no mention of the CalGrant. I made phone calls and found out the awful truth.

When we moved to student housing in Davis, we only slowly changed over our new mailing address for bills, and many things we didn't change at all. We didn't do a forwarding order; I didn't really understand how those worked. For hanging on to our mail or sending it up, we had just counted on the relative who had taken over payments for our mobile home on the family property. We were down there often enough, and it had been agreed on.

Apparently, financial aid had sent a letter that said, basically, Do you still want the CalGrant? If so, fill out the form and mail it back before such and such a date. I have no idea what happened to that letter, but I never saw it. When I realized what had happened, I was so upset, I had to go lie down on the bed. I think that is the first time I had to take measures like that to regain composure. I tried everything to get it back. I even called Senator Alan Cranston's office, but there was nothing to be done.

It took a long time to let go of that. Years actually. Maybe even decades. But it all doesn't matter any more. Not having it didn't really change anything in the long run. So every now and then, I'll bring it up, for the story's sake, but not as regret, only as the one that got away.

The Old Mandolin

Back in Davis... The kids and I were taking a Saturday morning walk, checking out the farmers market and some nearby yard sales. Junk, mostly, of course. But there, propped up on a chair was an old "A" style mandolin. No strings were on it, and it was not pristine. But I could see nothing structurally wrong with it. And best of all, it said "The Gibson." The handwritten tag said 1920's mandolin. My clutching little heart wanted it! I had no time to put towards it. For goodness sake, I had no time to even read a book! But still...

How much? Says I.

$75, says he.

Hmm. It doesn't have strings. How do I know it even plays well?

Says he, Well, it is a Gibson!

And I couldn't argue with that. It would have had to be under 40 for me to have had a chance. So I walked away.

Later, of course, as I grew more familiar with the prices of these things, I realized what a good buy it was. But not for me. And still, I wondered. I wondered what kind of treasure it would have been if I had been able to buy it. I wondered if someone who could have afforded to fix it up right had bought it. I kicked myself for walking away, even though I knew that was my only option.

Now, I know that if I ever want one of these, I could probably buy one that would already be set up and playable. So it's ok now.

BUT, if it had been a Loar F-5... Now we're talking regret!

The Boy

Have you ever met someone that you felt an attraction to that was based on something weird and undefinable, weird because you don't even know the person? It really must be chemistry, or something else mysterious.

When I was Honey Queen, I was spending some time in a beekeeping booth in Southern California, during the county fair. There was a young security guard there, about my age. R.R. was nice looking, though definitely not dashing. A little bit stocky with a pleasant face and expression. Over the course of the day, he would spend a few minutes here and there chatting with me at the booth.

I'd gone out on a few dates with guys, who ranged from "meh" to "ok." But there was a nice easiness, and maybe shyness, with R.R. that made our short chats enjoyable and created attraction. He told me his goal was to move to Arizona and become a policeman. That's really the gist of all I remember about our conversations. On his break, he came over to the booth to see if I wanted to walk around through the building with him. We held hands.

The next day was a short one for me, but R.R. showed up, even though I think he wasn't working that day to say goodbye. And that was it. I didn't really know the guy, and I certainly don't regret that there was no attempt to stay in touch. But I every now and then, over the last 30 some odd years, I wondered just what happened to him, if he ever got to be an Arizona policeman.

The Rings

I never really owned that many pieces of jewelry. And I always managed to hang on to the ones I had, whether they were fine or costume. But two special rings slipped away from me, both my fault, of course. That's where the regret comes in. But you can bet I never was so foolish as to put a ring in my purse, strap the purse down flat on the back carrier of a bicycle rack and then ride cross country for a quarter of a mile back home and then expect to open the purse up and have my ring still there!

I had a pretty little opal ring, my birthstone, set in 10k gold with a couple of diamond chips set beside it that I had gotten from my parents for Christmas. I was in the 8th grade, I think, and it was summertime. The KOA, accessed through an orange grove, across a grassy field and down a dirt road had a pool. They allowed local kids to swim for 50 cents. While I was swimming, I was afraid the ring would come off in the pool, so I stuck it in my purse.

Later, I walked back and forth, hoping to see a golden glint in the grass, but it was hopeless.

The other ring loss actually affected me far more, even though it was just a little kiddie pink zircon birthstone band. I think I got it for Christmas from my Grandmother; I was probably in the 3rd grade. It was so beautiful! It was in the shape of a diamond, and it had a clear little stone on either side of the bigger sparkly pink one. It was adjustable, and it came in a neat white box with a slash to push the ring into.

It was my first and only ring. I adored it. I wore it whenever I could remember to put it on. I played with it too, and that was where trouble happened.

My very favorite game to play with my ring was Treasure Hunt. We used to treat the school grounds just up the lane from our house as our own special playground and park. One of the play structures was multiple boxes of sand that lay under various bars, monkey bars, pull-up bars, low bars that you could lay your sweater on, hook a knee over, and then twirl, dress a'flyin'. The sand was deep, about 6-8 inches, to cushion you from a hard fall off the bars.

The sand was cool and damp when I sat down on it to play Treasure Hunt. The story ran through my mind internally while my hands played out the motions. Perhaps it was a pirate who was going to bury the treasure. He needed to hide it from the ones who wanted it. I dug a deep hole in the moist sand with my hands, about 3 inches deep. The glistening pink and gold treasure was made shockingly beautiful juxtaposed against the dull gray sand. The pirate carefully covered it up, intending to come back later and recover it. But somehow, a little girl happened to be digging in that very same spot. And what did she come upon? After brushing off the ugly damp sand, a golden ring, with a clear pink diamond! How exciting, to uncover a treasure left by a pirate!

Until one time, when she realized that the recovery hole was deeper than the burying hole. She checked the tailings, nothing. She dug deeper, nothing. She dug off to each side, nothing. She did realize that once she moved from her place, and points of reference would be gone and finding it again would be hopeless. But finally the time came she had to go home to supper.

Over the next months of school, and even into summer, she would dig a little bit, near where she thought it might still be. Until finally, she realized that even if she found it, it would be corroded and useless by now.

I regretted that action far beyond what the value of the trinket was, though once I realized that time would have pitted it by then and I would have outgrown it, I was able to give it up.

And what did I learn though this sad story? Don't play stupid burying games with your jewelry!


  1. I find myself strangely sad after reading this post

  2. The best compliment to a piece of writing is that it elicits emotion. Thanks! Do you remember that painting?