Lucy noticed her purse was missing just as the tsunami warnings came across the kitchen radio. A horrible earthquake in Chile meant we expecting a giant tsunami. We’d planned to go to the coast that day. Should we still go?
Lucy was one of our four good friends visiting from Chicago – along with Russ, Joel and Louise. It was early on a Sunday morning, we were all looking forward to spending the day visiting the seal colony and exploring the Cape Palliser Lighthouse.
On the radio, the announcer was saying that residents in low-lying parts of Banks Peninsula were being evacuated.
“It’s gone,” Lucy said.
Joel looked shocked. “The tsunami hasn’t even hit yet. How can Banks Peninsula be gone?”
“No. My purse.”
“Oh. You’ll find it,” Joel said.
“It’ll be fine,” Russ said, sipping his morning coffee. “We should still go see the seals. It’ll probably be a just little baby wave rolling in.”
Louise grimaced. “But if you’re wrong we’ll all be swept away to our deaths.”
Lucy looked around the room. “Does nobody care about my purse?”
The Lakeside Gang
Russ, Joel, Lucy, and Louise – along with Will, who visited at Christmas – are what CJ and I call “The Lakeside Gang.”
Russ and Joel have a fantastic second home in Lakeside, Michigan, just over an hour drive from Chicago if the traffic is light. CJ and I have spent countless weekends at that house with these good people – swimming in Lake Michigan, eating wonderful meals on the screened-in dining porch as the sun fades outside, and basically having a fabulous time.
The group is a funny mixed bag of people. Russ and Joel are both corporate lawyers with a love of food and wine and an overdeveloped sense of hospitality. Louise works in a bank but is at heart a bird-watching banjo player who loves to hike, while Lucy is a licensed psychologist who also happens to be an activist working with labor unions throughout South America.
Will is the one who bridges the gap between corporate law on the ‘right’ and music playing activists on the ‘left.’ He works as a public defender serving the underprivileged people of Chicago who have been accused of grisly crimes.
These are just a few of the ‘Lakeside Regulars’ but CJ and I are very fond of them all.
Ever since we moved to Martinborough CJ and I have said over and over, “We need to have the Lakeside Gang here.” So we were thrilled to have them finally under our roof – even if we were suffering from tsunami warnings and a missing purse.
The purse hunt
Lucy wandered back into the kitchen after her second round of purse hunting. “It is definitely gone. My passport and my wallet are in there. Do you think someone at the restaurant last night stole it?”
Louise laughed. “We’re not in Chicago. It’s more likely you left it someplace silly than someone stealing it.”
The entire Lakeside Gang was returning to the States the next day, but if Lucy didn’t have her passport, she wouldn’t be going anywhere.
“Maybe you just left it at the restaurant,” CJ said.
Joel chimed in. “Or maybe you left it in CJ and Jared’s car this morning?”
Earlier that morning, CJ and Lucy had gone out to buy fresh fish for dinner from the fishermen who sell their catch at the town square. Lucy had wanted to drive our little Nissan Pulsar in order to practice driving on the left side of the road.
“No,” Lucy answered. “I didn’t take my purse with me this morning.”
Louise sighed. “You mean you didn’t have your driver’s license with you when you drove for the first time on the wrong side of the road in a foreign country?”
Lucy and Louise went back down to their room and started tearing the place apart. We could hear them opening drawers, emptying suitcases, and generally ransacking the place.
In the meantime, yet another civil defense warning came across the kitchen radio, telling us to stay off beaches and keep away from the coast.
CJ said, “I’m with Russ. Let’s go see the seals. There’s not going to be any tsunami.”
But Joel was the voice of reason. “We can’t go to the coast during a tsunami warning,” he said.
Louise – who had by now begun flipping over furniture at the other end of the house – yelled out, “I’m with Joel!”
The lines were drawn.
In the end, CJ and Russ gave in. We decided to head for the hills. We would do the Rapaki Hillside Walk instead – an hour and a half walk up through the hills that surround Martinborough. The walk starts at Te Muna road near our place and ends up on Shooting Butts Road just outside of the town square.
We all assumed the purse would eventually turn up. So in preparation for the walk, Russ and CJ drove off to leave a car at the town square. That way we could all pile in and drive back afterward.
By the time they got back, the house looked like it had been searched by a bomb squad. Sheets were flipped back, clothes thrown around, pillows displaced, and closets emptied. Joel and I had joined in the hunt, wandering around the house to see if fresh eyes could spot that elusive, passport-holding purse.
It was absolutely nowhere.
Russ said, “If I know Lucy, she carried her purse out of the restaurant last night and then simply left it sitting in the back seat of the car.”
Russ had driven their rental car to the restaurant – the very car that was now sitting at the town square.
“Perfect,” CJ said. “When we get done with our walk, we’ll check the back seat. I’m sure the purse will be there.”
Suddenly our hill walk had a mission. Get to the car and find the purse.
Rapaki Hillside Walk
We started at Te Muna road and hopped over the fence. The sheep stared at us as we walked along the grassy ridge and passed some cabbage trees.
Suddenly we were high above Martinborough, surrounded by blue sky. In the distance we could see green fields for grazing, and the rows of trees that serve as windbreaks. The Tararuas were a misty blue-grey on the horizon.
We were in no hurry, and the group ambled up and down along the rises and falls in the land. We chatted as we went and fell into long, easy silences. The wind was gentle on our backs.
It felt good to have these people from our life in Chicago here with us, if only for a long weekend and a beautiful stroll through the hills.
Arriving at the town square
When we got to the town square, Lucy made a beeline directly for the car. Russ opened the back door and we all looked inside.
The purse wasn’t there.
We looked under the seats, and then even in the trunk. The purse was definitely not in the car.
Then we walked over to the restaurant we’d eaten at the night before – Wendy Campbell’s French Bistro. We’d had a delicious meal and the staff had been incredibly nice.
Lucy knocked on the door. They weren’t open, but the maître d’ let her in to look for her purse. She checked everywhere. The purse wasn’t there either, and of course no one had found it after we had left.
We now had no idea what to do.
CJ said, “Well Lucy, you might be stuck in New Zealand for longer than you’d planned. We can call the U.S. Embassy on Monday and see how long it takes to get a new passport.”
“Oh damn,” Lucy said. “Stuck in paradise.”
Eventually we piled in the rental car and drove back to our house.
We immediately turned on the radio to find out what had happened with the tsunami. As it turns out, the wave was less than 5 feet by the time it got to New Zealand – about the size of a normal surfing wave.
Lucy was wandering around the house again, looking for her purse.
As a last ditch effort, I called the police to see if anyone had turned it in. A very nice constable in Masterton said, “No. Nobody has turned in a purse like that. Would you like to report it stolen?”
“Um. No. Not yet. I’ll call back if it doesn’t turn up.”
That was when Joel once again said, “Are you absolutely sure you didn’t take it with you this morning?”
CJ immediately ran outside. Two minutes later, he came back in carrying Lucy’s purse.
“My purse!!” Lucy yelled. “Where was it?”
“In the back seat of our Nissan! You must have put it there when we went to get the fish.”
“Lucy!” Louise said, rolling her eyes. “You said you didn’t have it this morning!”
Lucy smiled sheepishly. “Oops, I guess I did. But aren’t you glad I had my license with me?”
Have you ever thought you lost something when you really hadn’t?
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