Tom and Mollie 4 ever OR: how my son and I learned the value of a good mystery

You guys.

The most amazing thing has happened. I know there are degrees of amazing. But I'm ranking this one right up there with fate and destiny and a universal power of greatness that flows through life like one of those ocean currents Nemo's dad had to jump into to make it to Sydney to save him from the girl with braces. That kind of amazing.

Somehow, my fifth grader and I managed to dip ourselves briefly into the great universal current of awesomeness and get swept along for a while. I'm not sure we've stepped out of it, yet, either. It is a glorious ride.

Here's the story:

A few months ago, my oldest son, Sam, was at school and saw something shiny half-way buried in the soccer field. He's always been a little magpie so he ran over and dug out the shiny thing. It was a gold ring. He wore it on his thumb for the rest of the day, and was thrilled with his find. When he showed it to me, I told him that it looked like a wedding band. We held it up to the light and saw that it was inscribed.

Tom – Mollie. (Along with their wedding date) 

A mystery! Who were Tom and Mollie? Why was the ring in the soccer field? How long had it been there?

Initially, Sam wasn't sure about embarking on a search to find Tom and Mollie. He was quite pleased with his new thumb ring. But we talked about it. It's difficult, I think, to ask a 5th grade boy to think about the future love of his life, and the symbol of their love that they'll both have, and then how devastating it could be to lose that symbol. You'd always have your love, of course, and a ring isn't necessary to keep your heart full. But these symbols can take on a life of their own, and losing them can hurt very much, especially depending on circumstances. So we talked about how Tom might feel to not have his ring. And how Mollie might feel. And how, as human beings with empathy and compassion we have a mandate, really, to try to find these people and get them their ring back.

Plus… it would be like a scavenger hunt! And a mystery! And a puzzle! Sam was totally up for it.

Our first step was to post on Facebook and Twitter. Did anyone in the elementary school neighborhood know a Tom and a Mollie? Start simple, right? Of course, my Facebook friends were immediately up for the game, and within minutes someone had used the wedding date and first names to look up Tom and Mollie on a Texas vital statistics web site. This gave us a last name. Could it be the right Tom and Mollie?

From there, I plugged the names into our county's central appraisal district website. Boom. I had Tom and Mollie's address – two streets from the elementary school. Surely this had to be the correct Tom and Mollie. Right?

I debated what to do. Some friends on Facebook and Twitter were wary. They told stories of divorce and tossing wedding rings into the sea or into other symbolic places. What if Tom or Mollie had gotten rid of the ring on purpose? What if there was a reason it was buried in the soccer field? Did we want to unearth something that needed to stay buried, both literally and figuratively?

I mulled this over and talked about it with Sam. We decided that just showing up and knocking on their door was out of the question. Too many unknowns. Plus, it would be super awkward to be all, "Oh hey, 500 online friends and I Internet stalked you and found your address, and here is a ring that may or may not be yours and may or may not have been discarded on purpose."

That awkward stuff would be easier to put in a letter, I thought. I could slide the ring in an envelope with the letter, put it in their mailbox and have that be that.

But what if these people were the wrong Tom and Mollie? I know that would be a stretch, but you never know.

So I decided we shouldn't want to write a letter, either. (Plus, my postal carrier brother-in-law pointed out that it's technically illegal to put something in someone's mailbox without it having been actually mailed there. I didn't want to actually mail the ring.)

Then I had a duh moment. Just look up Tom and Mollie on Facebook. Voila! I found Mollie and sent her a message. Everyday after school Sam would ask if I'd heard from her. A week passed. Then two. Then three. I sent another message. Again, no response.

Maybe the ring really had been discarded on purpose. Maybe we really were meddling where we shouldn't be. Sam and I talked about our next steps. Had we tried hard enough to make contact? Should we go to their house? Should we stop and just be happy we'd gotten this far? 

We knew we couldn't let this be the end of our trail. Even if we were meddling. We were in it. Tom and Mollie had become people we talked about and wondered about. We wanted to know their story. We didn't believe the ring was in the soccer field on purpose.

So I googled Mollie and came up with an email address from a high school class reunion web site. I sent a note.

This morning I got an answer from Tom. (An answer that started: Praise the Lord!!!)

It is his ring. He gave me his phone number.

I called him and he was so, so excited.

"How long has the ring been lost?" I asked.

"Twenty-nine years," he said. "It's been 29 years."

And that's when I began to cry.

He was a little flustered at my crying and I felt like a silly sap, but oh my. 

"Our 31st wedding anniversary is in five days," he said.

And I continued to do that laughcry thing that people do.

"How did you find us?" he asked.

I told him an abbreviated version of the Internet stalking Sam and I (and my Facebook friends) had embarked upon.

It was his turn to say "oh, my."

Tom and I said good-bye still not having set up a time to meet to hand over the ring. He needed to call Mollie to check on her schedule. We both agreed that just swinging by and dropping the ring in the mailbox was out of the question. Sam would like to shake Tom's hand. Tom would like to shake Sam's hand. I would like to see the faces of the people we've wondered about for so long. And if they're willing, we would love to hear the story behind the loss of the ring, and if was ever replaced, and if they ever even still thought about it. Though I'm pretty sure they have.

It must be weird for Tom and Mollie that Sam and I feel like we know them. Obviously, we don't know them at all. But we have learned that we do, after all, know other people who know them. There is a kid on their street who is in the same grade with Sam. A mama friend of mine has met them on evening walks in the neighborhood. It is such a small, beautiful world we live in.

I hate to leave this as a To Be Continued story, but I have to. We still haven't set up a time to meet. Maybe Mollie has told Tom that he is crazy to entertain this Internet stalker. Or not. We will find each other. I know we will.

Tom will have his ring back in time for their 31st wedding anniversary. Twenty-nine years after the ring was lost.

Sam will have learned a lesson about love and faith and loss and intrepidness and Internet privacy (both wow and yikes), and he will have learned about what a small lovely world we live in.

And I will have learned a lesson about not being so damn cynical all the time. Good things happen. That great universal current of awesomeness is always flowing around us, and you never know when you're going to accidentally slip into it and find yourself swept along for a damn fine ride.

I will keep you updated on this ride we're on.

What fun.

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