Things Are Not Always Just Things

Jim Schoettler at Fresno State College

Laughter can shift your perspective. 
Cuff links spark a memory and a drama.

When I met my husband, Jim Schoettler, he usually wore a white shirt with French Cuffs when he was dressed for church or to go “out”.  With that shirt he wore a pair of simple gold ovals with an engraved “S” in the center of the oval. I learned later that these were more than favorite cuff links they were his only cuff links. 

His high school sweetheart gave them to him.  He laughed when I told him I was jealous of them.  “Why? That’s over.”  Although he added others over time he was loyal to those early cuff links because they carried and acquired history and he wore them often until he died. I got over being jealous as I came to understand that Jim was not one to waste money on something he already had and liked. Things were just things to him.

We never did agree about that. I am one of those people who is apt to imbue "things" with mystical power and sentimental meaning.

One day recently when I was reviewing my list of the things that I had to do for the day I remembered that I had taken my red striped shirt, the one with French cuffs, to the cleaners and had not picked it up yet.  I was startled as I thought about those French cuffs and the cuff links I had been wearing with it - - Jim’s oval cuff links.  I do that a lot. Wear some thing of his as a way to feel he is close by. But this time the more important point was that I could not recall removing them before I dropped the shirt off at the cleaners.

I squeezed back the tears realizing that if they dropped out of the sleeves they would  be lost to me. I felt terrible.  I quickly finished dressing so that I could get to the cleaners as soon as possible.

I was glad the familiar friendly woman was behind the counter at the cleaners when I pulled open the door and rushed in.  I told her my problem, “Do you have my husbands cuff links in your lost and  found?”  

“I will look.” But they were not there. She looked at my face and added, “If you left them in and they found them at the plant they will be in a little envelope pinned to the invoice on the shirt." She walked into the back room and I heard her pushing the heavy revolving rack around and the crackle of plastic as she checked the names on the garments. 

It seemed a very long time and I was beginning to tear up again. When she returned she hung all my items on the front rack - and then she handed me a small envelope. "Here you are sweetie." I opened it and inside were two familiar gold ovals. The tears I had been struggling to hold back slipped freely down my cheeks.

A  woman waiting behind me who had heard it all volunteered, “I don't get that attached to things.”
“I try not to care so much but my husband died  last year and those are his cuff links.”
”OK.  I get it. That's terrible – sort of like flushing your engagement ring down the toilet.”

Choking back a laugh, and working hard to keep a straight face, I nodded. 

Back in the car I laughed out loud but none-the-less I am grateful that the cleaners agree  - -  small things do mean a lot.

In 1954, the year I met Jim, this was Kitty Kallen's TOP OF THE CHARTS HIT.

I remember listening to the song with Jim. We agreed on the importance of all the small things in Kallen's song - but he thought I was a little over the top in the way I put so much stock in bits of anything that held a memory. So I wonder how he would have felt about this cuff-link incident.


Robin said...

Lovely... and glad they are back!

Anonymous said...

Yes, they do -- and the people who care mean even more. Hugs to you and to your friend at the dry cleaners . . . who understands so well.

WomenRock said...

Yeah, I love happy endings - great story Ellouise and I am so glad they were there for you. I bet Jim saw to it ;-)

hart said...

So glad you found them and that some kind soul saved them for you. --Jane