By Pamela Skjolsvik
It was three days after Christmas, which is about the typical amount of time it takes for the love of all mankind, piped in baby Jesus music and holly jolly temperaments to be quickly dismantled and discarded like the brittle, withered trees that litter the cold sidewalks just before New Years. It’s the time of year I dread.
I darted from my mother-in-law’s house towards the seclusion of her garage to sneak a cigarette. The air was cool, slightly damp and fragrant with the “Outdoor Fresh” smell of Bounce dryer sheets.
As I flicked my lighter, I heard a clinking from the dryer.
It was probably some forgotten remnant of my kids’ Christmas loot, a Polly Pocket doll or a Webkin registration card, but I feared the errant crayon that could demolish our clothing with streaks of Brick Red or Midnight Blue.
I opened the dryer and blindly stuck my arm in among the damp clothes. The culprit rested at the bottom of the dryer. As I pulled it out, the light from my cigarette illuminated it—a white-gold, princess-cut diamond ring. And it wasn’t mine. Visions of my six-year-old daughter rummaging through one of her aunt’s jewelry boxes danced in my head.
I dashed towards the house, holding the ring with outstretched arms in fear that its evil acquisition might taint me. My daughter looked up from her coloring, her eyes wide with fear at the site of the “precious” and the look of horror on my face.
“Mom, I really like diamonds,” she tried to explain.
“Where did you get it?” I boomed. Tears raced down her pink cheeks towards the unfinished coloring book page.
“Just tell me the truth. You’re not going to get in trouble,” I said slowly and syrupy to assuage her little girl fears of time-outs and television banishment.
She wiped the tears with her pajama sleeve and thought for a moment. “I found it in the snow.”
There wasn’t a snowflake in sight, just brown lawns and skeletal trees.
“The snow ride at the park,” she clarified.
Now it made sense. We had spent the previous night at Six Flags rushing to and from every child friendly ride in the park. Since her Texas cousins rarely experienced snow, they dragged us along to the sledding hill. Unbeknownst to me or anyone else, it was at the bottom of that hill that Lola spotted the sparkling half-carat diamond nestled in a mound of fake flakes. She slipped it into her back pocket, blissfully unaware of the ring’s monetary or sentimental value. It was pretty and shiny and free, and well, she really liked diamonds.
When I called the Lost and Found at the park, the female on the phone couldn’t believe that the ring had been found or that I was returning it. She said that I could either drop it off at Six Flags and they would return it or I could call the woman directly. Since I wanted to be the bearer of good news, I volunteered to call the woman myself.
She was beyond thrilled. “I can’t believe you found it! This is unbelievable. Thank you so much.”
Her joy was contagious, and as I hung up the phone, I informed my daughter that we’d given a perfect stranger the best Christmas present of all.
“Yep, we restored her faith.”
“It’s a belief in something you can’t see.”
I felt like a really good parent in the form of a living, breathing Hallmark card.
When we returned home to Colorado, I faithfully looked towards my mailbox with the same sort of expectation of a child on Christmas Eve. I was waiting on a miracle to appear—a tangible, bankable reward for my supposedly good behavior. But as the days passed and not even so much as a thank you card arrived, doubt, like the let down of January, crept in.
Pamela Skjolsvik usually writes about death or prison or both, but that gets old after awhile.