Hard of Earring| November 2, 2021
I was angry with myself for taking this so seriously
Itouched my earlobe. There was a split second of disbelief before reality hit my brain. I turned my head to the right to see my reflection in the mirror. Left ear, earring. Right ear… nothing.
I told myself not to panic. I’d just changed out of my bleach-spattered top after cleaning floors and scrubbing bathrooms. My brand-new white gold earring was probably caught on a thread.
But turning the top inside out and back again produced nothing. I frantically flapped it in the air, hoping to hear a little clang of an earring hitting the floor, all the while trying to think when I'd last seen it.
My stomach began its descent as I realized I’d forgotten to take my earrings out the night before — something that never happens. Which meant I’d slept in them, which led to the logical conclusion that the missing earring was in my bed.
Only, I’d changed the linen that morning! And washed it. And stuck it in the dryer.
Time to panic.
I dashed off a message to my friends — Please daven for me. Lost my new white gold earring, gonna turn the house upside down!
I muttered Amar Rabi Binyamin over and over again as I shook out every pillowcase, sheet, quilt cover. I inspected the corners and patted them all flat. No earring.
I pulled back the fresh linen — maybe it had fallen between the sheet and mattress? Mattress and bed? Bed and wall? And floor?
No, no, nope.
The panic intensified.
I couldn’t have lost that earring after waiting so long to buy it! Six months before, a post had snapped off one of my old earrings. I then wore my yellow gold, nice-but-completely-outdated earrings daily until I could justify splurging on a new pair. Three weeks earlier I’d finally gone to choose something I liked — not too showy, not too long, not so small as to be insignificant… in short, a pair of classic white gold earrings that I liked.
And now one had disappeared. It could be anywhere. Down a drain, in the garbage, crumpled underfoot. I’d just finished cleaning the house from top to bottom!
I put money in tzedakah, and pulled on disposable gloves to dig in the drain that collected all the dirty water. No earring. I bit my lip and put towels down under the washing machine, then opened the filter. I emptied the garbage from one bag to another, pretending to be grateful it was only dry junk, dust, and crumbs.
I moved the beds again, looked at the clock and ran to the store — Shabbos was coming, and we couldn’t eat earrings.
My eyes burned with the heat of unshed tears. I swallowed past the lump in my throat and tried to remember what I needed to buy.
I was angry with myself for taking this so seriously.
I have Stuff going on in my life. Real Big Challenge Stuff, and a lot of it. If anyone ever has the nerve to give me a Challenge List (check a box, any box), I’d check five, at least. I could probably do with the services of a social worker, medical specialist, askan, doctor, lawyer… some or all of the above at any given time. And I wasn’t going to pieces over any of that Stuff, so honestly, was I going to let a little earring destroy me?
Potentially, yes. I was holding it together just for the sake of the public. I dropped off the shopping and then went to pick up the kids. My husband came home.
“I’m really sad about something that happened,” I told him, and then stopped. For some strange reason I couldn’t even get the words out.
After a bit of probing, my poor husband’s alarm growing as I mutely shook my head while he dreamed up horrible scenarios of sickness and death, I blurted it out.
You could see him torn between sighing in relief and respecting the seriousness with which I was taking the whole thing.
“That’s really upsetting. Where? When?” He roped the kids in, and we turned the house upside down all over again — pushing and pulling beds and drawers and furniture in and out.
“You know, it wasn’t that expensive after you traded in your old ones. I’ll get you another pair.”
But it was the principle of the thing. That was my earring. I waited for it, I chose it… and why was I overreacting?
I felt like Hashem was pushing me too hard. That was it.
Living like I did, wave after wave crashing over me as I struggled to gain balance, coming up for air and spitting out salt water as I gulped in anticipation of the next wave, made me feel like there shouldn’t be any ripples in between. Like everything else should run smoothly for me.
It was the kind of flawed thinking I’d often fall into. Hashem doesn’t love me, see — I’m trying so hard to smile today, and that secretary yelled at me. I went all the way across town to submit some paperwork and the office was closed for no apparent reason. Hashem’s punishing me. Little things would throw me off balance — the days I woke up bracing for the next wave and a kid would throw up before I even shook sleep out of my eyes.
And then the good things — an empty waiting room, a kind neighbor, glowing reports from a teacher. Hashem loves me.
He loves me not.
Loves me not.
All that afternoon I walked around shaking an imaginary fist and yelling inwardly — I don’t deserve this! I take everything You give me and try my best. Why did You do this to me? A little earring?
And then a silent, painful acceptance. That earring was meant to provide enjoyment for three weeks. That’s all. Let it go.
When I dressed for a wedding that night, and put on cheap imitation earrings because the outdated ones didn’t match my outfit, I just told myself to accept, accept. I didn’t have time to cry, and anyway, it would have ruined my makeup.
All evening I sat at a beautiful, joyous wedding and mentally kicked myself for still thinking about the earring. I believed it could still turn up. I believed that if Hashem wanted, He could put it anywhere for me to find. I believed that He would.
I still held onto a faint hope the next morning. I wasn’t going to look for the earring any more, but I was sure it would turn up.
Then my husband randomly stuck his hand down the side of the couch while I was going through some emails at the table — and jumped up.
“Hey! What’s this? Something’s stuck in there, I’m telling you!”
My heart leaped… I was already composing a triumphant message — Found it! Found it! Down the side of the couch! — when he pulled out his hand. It was a small something, a pebble? No, Playmobil.
My heart dropped… and then I suddenly started laughing.
Hashem is my Father and He loves me regardless of whatever He chooses to send my way. And I was behaving like a child, tallying gifts against love taps against obstacles in some kind of juvenile spreadsheet, searching for proof of it.
I knew in that moment, looking at the miniature plastic squirrel in my husband’s hand, that I had to stop. An awareness had crystallized through all those thoughts that ebb and flow, crash and fade, until one small truth was left sparkling on the sand.
Plates smash, pants rip, bracelets snap. Bones break — as do hearts.
But through it all, He loves me.
And that, really, is the end of the story. Should be.
Even though ten minutes later, as I pushed in a trundle bed — one that had been moved in and out at least five times in The Hunt for Mommy’s Earring — there was a little white gold thing winking up at me in the middle of an empty floor.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 766)
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