Monday, September 1, 2014

Lost and Found

On Labor Day our village of Cherry Creek hosts not only a parade, food vendors, and a fireworks display but also a village-wide garage sale.
So...ten o'clock Monday morning, after watching the parade, the day sunny and bright, I stood in front of the billboard in the village park checking out the garage sale posters.
A poster that caught my eye featured a close-up photo of a smiling little girl with curly blonde hair hugging a huge teddy bear.
My heart lurched. I thought for a second one of our school children was missing—I'm the secretary to the elementary school principal. But the text below explained that Deebo, the teddy, bear was missing. Last seen at the Machine Shed Restaurant, Highway 150, just outside of town, ladies restroom, three weeks ago. The poster also listed a cell phone number to call if Deebo were spotted in a garage sale and promised a reward.
"I know it's a long shot," a deep masculine voice said, startling me. I turned and looked up into the face of a perfectly handsome dark-haired man with sparkly blue eyes. "I don't believe we've met," I said.
"Ken Lawson," he said, smiling a warm smile I couldn’t resist. "I'm Jennifer's dad—the five-year-old girl in the picture. We're trying to find her teddy bear."
"I'm Laura White," I said. "Your daughter is such a beautiful girl. How did she lose the bear?"
He shrugged. "Long story."
"I've got time," I said. "I remember as a kid I had a beloved teddy bear. I would've died if I'd have lost it."
We wandered over to a picnic table under an oak tree and sat down. To my surprise, Ken explained that he was Linda Stewart's husband. She was a classmate of mine in high school. She left town after graduation to seek a Hollywood career. She didn't make it, but she married a lawyer—Ken Lawson—the man sitting in front of me—and they settled down in California.
"She died in an automobile accident a year ago," Ken said. "I moved here this summer because this is where Jennifer's grandparents live, her only relatives. Mine are deceased."
"What a wonderful thing you've done."
He went on to tell me about the teddy bear. Two weeks ago after arriving in town, he'd taken Jennifer to an amusement park. On the way back, she couldn't quite wait to get home to use the bathroom, so they stopped at the Machine Shed. She took Deebo into the restroom with her and forgot him. "It was late when we got to the restaurant that night," Ken said. "Both of us dead tired. I think someone working there found him and took him. I checked with the Shed the next day, but no one remembered seeing Deebo."
"And you think somehow Deebo might show up in a garage sale?"
"Crazy, huh? But I've got to do something. I've tacked posters to telephone poles, too. Jennifer's lost a lot lately."
My heart ached for this man who was willing to move across the country for his daughter, and I felt fired up. "You take the south side of Main Street," I said. "I'll take the north. We'll stop at every sale. Meet back here at five."
"It's a deal!" We shook, his hand warm and firm in mine.
Would you believe it! I found Deebo. I actually found him!  I nearly dropped dead.
Five o'clock in the afternoon, Ken, Jennifer, and I sat at the picnic table under the oak tree. Jennifer smiled, giggled, and hugged Deebo. Ken smiled and hugged Jennifer. I sat across from them, smiling. I explained that the lady who sold Deebo to me for three dollars, said her daughter collected stuffed animals, but since the girl went off to college recently, the lady was selling them—with her daughter's permission, of course. Yes, the girl had worked at the Machine Shed for a time. She quit because of school.
Still smiling, still clutching Deebo in a fierce hug, Jennifer said, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ms. White."
"You're very welcome."
Ken looked hesitant. His lovely blue eyes landed on mine; my blood rushed.
"It is Ms. White?" he asked.
I nodded. "Divorced long ago."
"Jennifer and I would be honored if you'd, like, hang out with us, eat, and attend the fireworks later."
"Oh, please, Ms. White!" Jennifer said.
"And you have a reward coming," Ken said. "Plus three dollars."
With Ken's eyes still locked on mine, I couldn't ignore the fireworks in my own heart.
"No reward," I said. "And forget the three dollars. But I'd love to hang out with both of you," I added, and wondered I'd found more than a lost teddy bear.
                                                  The End