"With the certitude of a true believer, Vellya Paapen had assured the twins that there was no such thing in the world as a black cat. He said that there were only black, cat-shaped holes in the universe."
-- Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Things That Hide Under Our Beds

Recently I have been re-reading some of my old journals.  (More snippets, secrets, and sneak peeks coming soon.)  On July 30, 2001, I wrote:

“Cousin Kelley has a little leprechaun named Liam who steals her stuff.  Meaning, of course, that everything she has ever lost she assumes is in the possession of this little green man.  You may call her a lunatic, but I call her an optimist.  Why?  Because she really believes that one day Liam will show up, hand her a brightly-colored box, and return all of her long-lost belongings.  Maybe that is what Heaven is like.”

It’s 2013 now, and as far as I know Liam has yet to return anything, but Cousin Kelley remains hopeful.

Lost & Found

Me -- 1996
wearing the infamous
blue flower necklace
The idea of Liam intrigues me because I am obsessed with lost items.  I don’t lose things often, but when I do it haunts me.  I still remember the cheap little blue flower necklace I used to wear in college.  I bought it from the discount bin of some Claire’s-like store at the mall and I wore it every day.  Then one day I got on the elevator at UT’s Waggoner Hall with the necklace in my hand and got off the elevator without it.  Some part of me still wants to crawl around in the bowels of that building looking for my lost friend.

But (and maybe this is not surprising) I am equally obsessed with found items.  I guess it’s because I know how much it troubles me to misplace a treasure of my own—I can’t help but feel the loss and the importance of the treasures of others when they fall into my hands.

For instance, there used to be a box in the Yarborough Branch of the Austin Public Library that just broke my heart.  Sitting there amidst the “regular” lost and found items (sunglasses, gloves, tote bags, maybe a child’s shoe) was a box of birthday cards.  And ticket stubs.  And poems.  And love notes.  And photographs, photographs, photographs.  It was a box of all the items people used as bookmarks, all the items they lost when they carelessly returned the books to the library. 

Seeing that box, I couldn’t believe more people didn’t realize their mistake, drive back to the library, and search, if necessary, every book on the shelves, to get back these lost pieces of their lives.  I couldn’t believe that the librarians didn’t take the time to check the database of each book with treasure tucked inside so they could contact the heartbroken souls and reunite them with their belongings. 

I guess not everyone is as sentimental as I am.

I have found many objects over the years that I kept, either in hopes of someday reuniting them with their owners or because I felt that someone should treasure them.  And some I just I thought were cool.  I have a small rubber frog that has ridden around on the dashboard of my car since 2009 when I picked it up in the parking lot of a church where I was attending a funeral.  I also have a purple cashmere shawl that I found in an alley in downtown Austin in February of 2007, but to be honest I’m more attached to the frog.

My favorite found things, however, have been in my possession since the spring of 1996, when I lived in good old Jester Dorm for my freshman year at the University of Texas.

Asthmatics Beware:  This Part Will Make You Sneeze

Jester is the UT dorm at the corner of Speedway and 21st Street that looks kind of like a big brown prison.  During our freshman year, my roommate Alli and I lived in room 645 on the sixth floor of Jester East.  (Side note:  the actual address for the room was M645.  Jester West rooms start with a W; Jester East rooms start with an M.  It’s a leftover from when the dorm was separated into Men’s and Women’s sections.) 

Our dorm room was small.  There was no bathroom—we used the community bath down the hall—but we had a sink and a mini-fridge/microwave combo and each of us had a bed, a desk, a large bulletin board, and a small closet.  Our beds were situated directly under our bulletin boards and each one sat atop two large heavy storage drawers.  The beds could be pushed into the wall a few inches to allow more floor space and create the illusion of a couch or pulled all the way out to their full twin-sized expanse.

My UT student ID.
(As if the photo wasn't bad enough, a giant bubble formed over my face.)
I don't know how UT handles IDs these days, but when I was there
you got a sticker for every semester, sports package, etc. until the ID
looked like the passport of a world traveler.

One night in the spring of 1996, a photo fell off the bulletin board above my bed, and I watched it do two graceful flips in the air before making a perfect swan dive through the tiny crack between my bed and my wall, disappearing from view.  I assumed that it had landed in one of the large drawers underneath, but when I pulled them out, the picture wasn't there.  That's when I realized it had gone UNDER the drawers.  Those things were full of clothes and blankets and all sorts of junk and they were heavy, but I unloaded everything, wrestled the giant drawers out, and poked my head into the space under my bed.

That’s when I found my picture.  And a LOT of dust.  And proof that no one had cleaned underneath that dorm room bed for at least nineteen years.  Because along with the photo that had just taken the swan dive off my wall, I found treasures dating back to 1977.

And Now Things Get a Little Stalker-y

Under my bed, I found… an undated photo of three women in a living room, two high school yearbook photos from the eighties with classic “friends forever” messages on the back, a UT ID and a course schedule from 1985, a corner torn from the Daily Texan newspaper in August of 1983 (with a Jester room number and phone number written on it), and a receipt from September of 1977.



Yeah, good job Jester cleaning staff.

Over the years, I have kept all of these items and have wondered about the people in all of the photos.  Who were they?  What were their lives like?  Where are they today?  I assume the girls pictured in the yearbook photos are friends of students who lived in my room, mementos to keep them from being homesick in the big new world of college.  But the one person who has always intrigued me the most is Amy Spear, the owner of the 1985 ID card.  Because, in my imagination at least, she lived in the same dorm room I did exactly ten years before me.  In her first semester at UT, she lost her ID and had to go through the frustrating rigmarole of replacing it.  I can picture her looking all over for it, trying to remember where she’d seen it last, going crazy because she is sure that she put it on that shelf above her bed, and all that time it was right underneath where she slept.  I’ve always felt sorry for Amy for losing an ID with such a great picture (compare it to mine and you’ll see what I mean) and I’ve always wanted to meet her.

So… what the heck.  It’s 2013.  I’ve been holding onto this ID for eighteen years now.  We’ve got the internet and Facebook and Twitter and there are a whole lot of people out there who are way better at Googling than I am.  So, readers, I present you with this challenge:  Find Amy Spear, who was a freshman at UT in the fall of 1985 and, without being creepy or doing anything that will make her want to mace you, tell her that I would like to meet her and return her college ID to her and buy her a cup of coffee.  I want to do for Amy what Cousin Kelley believes Liam the leprechaun will someday do for her.  I want to give back a tiny little piece of her past that she lost long ago.

If anyone out there succeeds in helping me to reunite Amy with her lost ID, I will bake you cookies.  I promise.


  1. When I bought my house, a previous inhabitant had left her yearbook. I looked her up and eventually found her on LinkedIn. I messaged her and told her that I had her yearbook and one day she drove by to pick it up. It was kinda weird but I would have been sad if I had lost my yearbook. I did a quick search for Amy spear and it has not netted me anything but I'm determined to get some cookies. Will keep you updated.

    1. That's awesome, Bruce! Who leaves a yearbook behind? So strange. I did find a book of spells in an apartment I rented though.

  2. First of all Liam is real. Just need to make that clear. Second - I Love this blog. Love that you want to find Amy and that you kept all those. I always feel sad when I see family portraits in baskets at flea markets or antique stores. Makes me think that there is no one left in that family bc who would let family pics go.
    I almost left a box of journals in our garage in Florida - poor soul that would have found those. Yikes.
    Neat blog. I hope you find her. I will search now -

    1. I was just thinking about those journals! :) Good luck in your search. Bruce is going to give you some competition for those cookies though. He's already got a lead!

    2. PS-- Say hi to Liam for me.