Saturday, March 2, 2019

Still Life with Robin: House of Found Objects

by Peggy Robin

Left behind: 
Phone charger
Power cord
Contact lenses
Toiletries galore

This is by no means a comprehensive list of items I have found in my house after houseguests have departed. Because I have such a large and far-flung extended family, I find myself hosting relatives for overnight or longer stays on a fairly regular basis. They may come in from any of the following locations around the globe:

New York
Clontarff (near Sydney, Australia)
Punta del Este, Uruguay
Tuscaloosa, AL
Decorah, IA

I do my best to get my guests to check around for anything of theirs as they’re packing up. I don’t know why it’s so common for someone to forget something nonetheless. 

That leads to the question, how (or whether?) to get the item back to its owner. Most of the small stuff left behind – the travel tube of toothpaste, the shampoo bottle, the lip balm – I throw away. The cheap little travel umbrella I will keep and use, as karmic repayment for my own umbrella left at my host’s house on the other side of the planet. A pair of socks may be laundered and stuck in an envelope and returned to their owner for the price of a couple of stamps. 

Other things call for consultation and perhaps some balancing of interests: How old are those flip-flops anyway? How needed are they? Does it cost more to mail them than to buy a new pair? Is that book any damn good? Is the person still reading it? Does that woolly scarf have any sentimental value? And of course, is there any chance that another relative from the same point of origin (let’s say, the mother of the grad student who left the item behind on her trip to DC to do research at the Library of Congress) will be swinging through here soon and can pick it up and bring it back to the forgetful packer? Of course, in the mysterious working of the universe, if the mother arrives and if I remember to give her the gloves her daughter left here, that all but guarantees that she herself will leave behind something even more valuable.

But then there’s a reason I need to travel to Paris….to return a knitted hat!
Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays. 

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