By Judy Vorfeld
PEORIA, ARIZONA—1988 Not again! I searched the car’s interior carefully before admitting defeat. Even with pierced ears, I’d managed to lose not just one, as I’d done in 1971, but two earrings. And these were expensive.
Emerging from the blast furnace of our garage into our cool home, I’d almost decided not to tell my husband. I didn’t know how he’d respond. Would he laugh, be solemn, or turn into the “Finder of Missing Earrings” as he’d done years ago in Hawaii?
In 1971, Honolulu had been my home for five years. Most people think of Hawaii as an island paradise. The rich scents of ginger and plumerias; the soft cooing of silver doves; and the powerful Pacific Ocean sparkling with blue-green iridescence: all have a soothing, sedative effect on the human soul. However, I knew a person could live in Hawaii and constantly dodge little black clouds. I’d been through a painful divorce, felt inadequate as a parent, and lived daily on the edge of economic calamity.
OAHU SUGAR COMPANY I worked as a secretary for Amfac in downtown Honolulu. One sparkling April day my boss, John—a vice president—and I were discussing the various divisions of the corporation, when he mentioned the Agricultural Division. He pointed out the window, past Pearl Harbor, to the low-rising hills of Waipahu. The twin smokestacks of Oahu Sugar Company rose to meet the feisty, blue-gray clouds. He asked if I’d like to tour that plantation, owned by the corporation. Yes!
A couple of days later we ended up at Oahu Sugar Company in the Spartan office of his friend, Jack, the Factory Superintendent. The three of us lunched at Pearl City Tavern. By the time we’d finished, I was captivated by the quiet charm of my boss’s long-time friend.
The next few hours rushed by. We witnessed haul cane trucks racing between field and factory. We stood by a field of burning sugar cane, surrounded by smoke, then moved on to the factory, where the huge trucks unloaded burned cane stalks onto giant conveyor belts. From there we walked through the enormous boiler room and the lab, into the area where red-hot furnaces devoured great mounds of shimmering bagasse. Finally we drove several miles to Ewa Plantation, a recent company acquisition, for a brief walk-through.
EWA FACTORY: LOST AN EARRING All too soon it was time to return to Honolulu. As we reached the car, I discovered that one of my earrings was missing. I pretended indifference, although it was the only nice set of earrings I owned. Without any urging, Jack and John backtracked into the factory, then carefully inspected a nearby patch of lawn. Nothing.
The following day Jack called me at work. He’d found the missing earring, and asked if he could deliver it and take me out to dinner. Another “yes.” As we enjoyed our meal in the soft orange glow of a classic Hawaiian sunset, he described how he’d found the elusive earring: at daybreak, he’d driven from Waipahu to Ewa. After going through the factory, he went over to the patch of lawn. The little silver clip sat on top of the dew-covered, freshly mown grass.
ENGAGEMENT & RESIGNATION Soon I gathered up enough courage to invite Jack to dinner. Another “yes!” That very evening we ended up at Diamond Head Lighthouse tentatively discussing our future. The following weeks radiated with laughter, joy and happy confusion. We decided to marry in July. On June 20, Jack sent the following note to my boss:
Dear John: It is with great regret (yours, not mine), that I must inform you that you will have to find yourself a new secretary. I am afraid this happens to be of your own doing. My advice to you for the future: don’t take your secretary to lunch with unattached males.
Toward the end of June, Jack asked for the silver earrings. Just before the wedding, he returned the silver clips, now encased in transparent resin and set on a koa wood base.
We talked about the day of the plantation tour. He said I’d hidden the earring, then driven out from Honolulu that night and left it on the grass. I said he’d hidden it so he would have an excuse to see me again. I’m sure I was correct.
Jack’s brother Bob and his wife, Wilma, arranged for our wedding in a charming faded green church at Honokohua, Maui. The Rev. John Kukahiko arrived late. He’d been blessing the opening of the Makawao Rodeo.
Shuffling down the aisle, the elderly man greeted the four of us, opened his briefcases, whipped out his wrinkled black robe, Bible, and the paperwork. We got on with the ceremony.
An hour or so later as we stood on Bob and Wilma’s lanai, I idly fingered one of the elegant jade earrings Jack had given me as a wedding gift. I knew I was the luckiest woman alive.
Two years later, Jack retired and we moved to Arizona. The tapestry of our lives grew as we weathered conditions common to most families. One day I stopped at a shopping center after work. Exiting the car, I swung my handbag in front of me and knocked off an earring. I slowly backed into the 100 degree heat, looking all around. No luck. Just like the Ewa earring. I removed the remaining earring and placed it in a depression between the front seats, and finished my errands.
Arriving home, I grabbed my packages, and realized I’d lost the other earring! Although the garage was unbearably hot, I searched inside the little yellow car. Nothing.
Entering the house, I moved into the warmth of Jack’s welcoming embrace. I decided to tell him about the latest earring episode, even if he teased me. After all, I thought, he was skilled at finding lost jewelry.
ANOTHER LOST EARRING
I decided to take a shower. As I undressed, the first earring dropped to the floor. Great! But where was the other one? Oh, well . . .
The following afternoon I walked into the bedroom and spotted something on my dressing table. There, glistening on top of a piece of paper, were both earrings. The note said, “Found by the greatest earring finder the world has ever known.”
I don’t know how Jack found that little earring, then or in 1971.
I do know I have a husband who doesn’t give up easily. Sometimes I’ve thought his tenacity was nothing but stubbornness. Mostly, however, that trait has been a valuable asset.
His wonderful persistence contributed to the discovery of one lost woman and two elusive earrings.
Note: Jack died in 2004. And 33 wild, wonderful, sometimes stormy, vibrant, magnificent years! I miss him, but I say thanks every day because we both had second lives full of relevance…and a huge, growing, totally cool family to boot…Judy Vorfeld