Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - April 17, 2020

"And why?"

Most people have unique items in their homes - mementos they’ve purchased on family vacations, heirlooms from grandparents, original artwork and so on. But I've wondered how many of them keep and sometimes even display "found" items. I'm referring to things that once belonged to someone else, but were lost before finding a new home, even when most people would see them as just junk.

Welcome to our home. Oh, I don't mean that our house is junky. But here and there, we have objects that elicit "what is that?" or "where did that come from?" queries from visitors.

Husband Art is a collector of lost items - things people dropped in parking lots or on sidewalks or that somehow ended up in the middle of a street or on a roadside shoulder. This habit has yielded pens, baseball caps, umbrellas, throw rugs, a beach towel, various balls, tools and any number of other objects. My "Roadside treasures" column mentioned some of these.

But those items are useful. Here I'm referring to things we’ve collected that mainly cause head scratching.

When daughter Mariya and wife Miriam visited recently, Mariya looked at our patio door and asked, "What is that black thing on the glass?"

I rolled my eyes, and Art laughed. I explained it was a black suction cup Art had picked up in the parking lot of Findel airport in Luxembourg last summer.

"And why ...?" Mariya asked with a quizzical look.

I had no answer.

However, it would soon come in handy. I had brought my battery-operated clock home from my office when we were required to vacate the building due to the COVID-19 lock-down. It needed a new battery and the clock mechanism is embedded in wood. A suction cup was provided for removal, but I had forgotten to bring it home.

Art used the suction cup from the patio door, put it on the clock face and tugged gently. "Voilà!" Out came the clock! He replaced the battery, returned the clock to its frame and then handed it back with a somewhat triumphant look. The suction cup returned to the patio door.

We have other items just for "show." There is a silk rose in front of our TV and another on our bedroom dresser. Art picked up one of them on the road after we had eaten at the "oldest würst house in the world" in Regensburg, Germany. Neither of us is sure where the other was discovered, but it too was somewhere in Europe. They serve as daily reminders of the good times we’ve had traveling with our daughters.

In 2010, Art found a Tesco SD card on the ground as we were leaving London. He brought it home and looked at the contents. It contained two folders of photos - one of a wedding and the other of what appeared to be someone's vacation in China. The former were taken in the area near where we had stayed, but did not provide enough clues to find the rightful owner. My heart broke a little. The photographer was apparently a wedding guest and might get copies from others, but I can’t imagine losing photos from a trip to China.

A year ago, Art found something with two electrical connections that baffled him as to what it was. He kept it until he figured out it was an empty vaping cartridge.

I confess to finding a home for a lost item or two myself. A tiny object caught my eye in an alley. It turned out to be a tiny plastic football player. He rides with us on the dash of our van and whenever I notice it, he makes me smile.

Over the years, the Freeland family farm became a storehouse for items that had belonged to now-dead relatives. So occasionally we'd find a "treasure" while going through stuff in our barn or brooder house. I opened an old trunk and found an embroidered purple "S" in the middle of a circle of purple flowers with yellow centers. The embroidery was done on a light-brown linen background. Grandma Ethel Freeland sewed and her maiden name was Stewart. Could she have done it? Her mother was born Laveria Storer, but died at 29 from tuberculosis, leaving four young children. Would she have had the time to spend on it? Laveria's mother - my great-great grandmother - Fannie (Graves) Storer might have produced that lovely hand-stitching.

I'll never know, but I had it framed with a purple mat and an old-fashioned frame that complemented the stitchery. It makes me think of the women who went before me every time I see it.

A favorite "found" items wasn't discovered by either of us. Art and I were in a Lamaze class with a group of six other couples the fall before daughter Katie was born. We laughed a lot going through breathing exercises and having husbands put weighted bean bags on to simulate how pregnant women feel.

We enjoyed all the couples, but connected most with Beth and Elias. One night after class, Elias came over to me with a coffee mug he had found in the waiting room of the hospital where he worked. He had waited for someone to claim it, but after days passed, he gave it to me.

It has a cartoon of a woman in her swivel office chair buried under a file cabinet drawer with the caption, "There appears to be a pause in Gloria's search for organizational excellence." It makes me chuckle - particularly now as I'm going through all the materials I brought home from the office.

Those treasures I wrote about 17 years ago proved to have utilitarian value, while these just provide amusement. But we need that too. So when Mariya asked, "And why?" I should have said, "For amusement."

Lost-and-found items - top-left: Coffee cup from Elias; right: "S" stitchery from the Freeland brooder shed; bottom-left: empty vape cartridge Art pondered; bottom-center: the airport suction cup.

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