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Little Spouse On The Prairie: Misplaced Blame

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

The older I get, the more aware I am that my sanity depends on my ability to keep things organized. I know that I must always put my purse back on a certain shelf in the office. I must always put the bills yet to pay in the top left drawer of the desk. I must always add my appointments to my calendar immediately and return the calendar to its place on the right side of my desk. And, perhaps most importantly of all, I must always, always, always, place my keys in the front pouch of my briefcase.

I’ve had lapses in the past, some of them catastrophic. In one two-week span, I lost three phones. I found the first one in the washer after a heavy-duty cycle. Microscopic pieces of the second one showed up on the garage floor a week after it went missing. I never did find the third one.

I try to view these episodes in a positive light. They are, after all, opportunities for growth. After this expensive stint with phone replacement, for instance, I bought a lanyard so that I could wear my phone around my neck. I admit; I looked ridiculous.

My kids were humiliated when I went out in public wearing my phone necklace. I tried to mitigate the embarrassment by buying brightly colored floral lanyards, but my efforts went unappreciated by my ungrateful teens. But guess what? I didn’t lose my phone again.

My family members are not as committed to putting things back where they belong. In fact, my services are often commandeered to help hunt for missing items. I don’t mind pitching in, but I do get annoyed when these requests are laced with unspoken blame.

The other day, Joel came in with a puzzled expression on his face. “What did you do with my keys?” he said.

“Um. I didn’t do anything with them, dear.” I kept my voice devoid of frustration. “Did you look in your desk drawer?”

“Of course. That’s where I always put them. Didn’t you use them?” Joel wasn’t as successful at keeping his voice frustration-free.

“No, darling. I typically use my own keys. Where did you last have them?”

“I put them back in the desk drawer. I need to run down and pick up some stuff at the hardware store. So, where are they?” I was more than a little reluctant to loan Joel my keys, but I did so, after obtaining sworn affidavits that I would get them back.

About a week later, I was getting Clementine’s music books out of the piano bench when I saw Joel’s elusive keys. How on earth had they gotten in the piano bench? Like a proud trophy winner, I triumphantly carried the keys to Joel. When I told them where they had been, he smacked his head with his hand.

“I must have put them in there when I returned Clem’s music books after I filled with gas last week! If you hadn’t told me to always put the books in there, I wouldn’t have lost those keys.”

Joel got his own chance to gloat a few days after that. I saw him out on the street in front of our house, leaning into the passenger side of an unfamiliar truck. I assumed Joel was just chatting to one of the seven billion people he knows, so I didn’t pay much attention. Within minutes, though, he burst into the front door, smiling from ear to ear. Apparently, the driver of the unfamiliar vehicle had made a delivery.

“Well, looky what was left in the post office box!” He held up my keys jubilantly. “I guess the queen of putting things away has been dethroned!”

And the worst of the situation was that I hadn’t even missed the keys yet. For just an instant, I thought about telling Joel that he had been the last one to use my keys to get the mail. I knew he would believe me, because his memory is even worse than mine.

But, then I decided to be thankful I live in such a small town that a local resident recognized my keys and dropped them off on his way home from the post office. I went and dropped them into the front pouch of my briefcase.

Host of Little Spouse on the Prairie, a regional comedy feature that airs Sundays at 8:35 a.m. during Weekend Edition.