My daughter looked distracted and troubled. She was gathering up her books for school, but I could tell her mind wasn't on the task at hand.
"When we came back from the pool yesterday, you brought the beach ball, right?" she asked suddenly, looking concerned.
"No," I said. "Sorry. I thought you had it. I guess we'll have to get a new one."
Big deal, right? It's just a beach ball. But my daughter's face fell. "But ... that's the ball Christine gave us," she whispered.
Oh dear. Christine. Cousin Christine. Cool cousin Christine. Cool cousin Christine who used to be my perfect summer nanny. Cousin Christine who is pretty, fun and always energetic - the antithesis of mom. She buys Slurpees, plays fun games, thinks of great places to go, and occasionally leaves behind treasured presents, like beach balls.
Christine was at college now, opting to go back to school despite my pleas for her to stay home and watch my kids. But my kids still treasure her gifts. If I would let them, they'd still have the gingerbread houses she built with them over Thanksgiving. This was serious.
"I'll go look for it," I told my daughter. "Maybe it will still be there."
But I didn't hold out much hope. That pool had been jam-packed. Our treasured Christine beach ball was now likely in some lucky kid's garage. But I trekked over after my daughter's bus left, just the same. The pool was closed and deserted, of course. And no ball in sight. But there was an older man sweeping up. I asked him if, by chance, he'd seen a beach ball lying around.
He asked me to describe it. I did. Then he unlocked the office door and gave it to me. I have to say I was absolutely astounded. All day. All those kids. And no one took it. Somebody turned it in. Amazing.
I smiled all the way home.