For the past few weeks we have been surrounded by stories of Lost & Found. It’s as though we have been attracting it.
Two weeks ago, a Mexican Pilgrim stopped and bought a bottle of water from me. It was a quick interaction but I remember thinking he looked like a bumblebee in his rain jacket. Later, I found a wallet stuffed with cash. Inside was his California driving license, passport, and credit cards. If we didn’t find a way to return it, he would – as we say in the US – be up a river without a paddle. Stranded in Spain with no ID and no money. We floundered for a bit over what to do or how to find him. He had quite a head start. We tapped into the Camino FB grapevine. Finally, I hopped in the car, drove ahead of him and waited on the trail before he popped up. He never knew he had lost it and was shocked to see the crazy lady from the Happiness Cafe Food Truck standing there in her apron waving, while holding up his wallet.
Then, there was a guy who lost a ring containing the ashes of his 10 year old daughter. He was sure he lost it on our stretch before O Coto. Jeff and I went out to look for it on a dusky evening as the sun went down. We looked in drains and ditches, and asked the other cafes if it had been turned in. But, to no avail. I heard the other day he got it back in Santiago. Someone had found it.
A couple of days ago, we had a mother and son from the US. They had found a diamond ring on the trail. A group of women who had arrived before them knew of the honeymooners who were walking the Camino, and she had lost her engagement ring. They all saw it returned to her with much relief. Teamwork!
We know the heartbreak of losing something you love. I couldn’t bring myself to write about it at the time, but three weeks ago we lost LuLu kitten. She liked to hang out at the tables with Pilgrims. One girl was very taken with her.
‘I love your cat. I want to take her home.’ She told me. Immediately after that, LuLu was gone.
LuLu is more dog than cat. She followed us everywhere and would come if you called her. She would talk to us if she was hungry. And she was happiest sleeping on our laps. To say that I loved that little kitten doesn’t cover it. I was heartbroken. She never wandered from the farm.
For weeks, we walked the Camino looking for her. Heading off the trail and calling out to her. Listening for her usual answer when she heard her name and our voices. Sure we heard it. Then, nothing. Silence. I didn’t tell Marie Carmen when she would drop by to deliver vegetables. LuLu is the kitten of Marie Carmen’s cat. She would always pet her when she brought me things from her garden. It would break her heart.
I had a hard time sleeping those first few days after she disappeared. Wondering where she was and if she was scared without us. Or if she had been hurt or run over by a car. She didn’t know to be afraid as she had never been away from the farm.
As I opened up in the mornings, Jeff walked towards Melide, calling out for her. One time, he walked through a farmer’s field sure he had seen her. Surprising the farmer and the Pilgrims, but he didn’t care.
‘It looked just like her.’ But it was a much bigger cat when he got closer.
We had resigned ourselves to the fact that the Pilgrim had taken her. And I consoled myself that the girl would take care of her and love her as much as we did. But, as the weather has turned cooler my thoughts returned to LuLu. Would she be OK in this terrible storm? What about when it dips into the single digits overnight. If the girl didn’t have her anymore – cats are a tough Camino companion – would she find a warm dry place? Or have enough food? We had stopped talking about her but Jeff knew it was hard for me to lose her. I couldn’t put her toys or her food bowl away. Not yet.
Today, I was making a smoothie for an Irish Pilgrim. We were chatting for a bit and Jeff was standing nearby. He doesn’t usually lurk by the food truck. He was wearing a grey plaid shirt so it took a moment for it to register that in his arms was LuLu!!! I squealed and jumped out of the door in front of a full house of Pilgrims eating. It’s not called the Happiness Cafe for nothing! Little LuLu kitten was purring like a bumblebee.
‘I went out to feed the horses some carrots and a big cement truck was coming down the road extra slow as Pilgrim parted. And running down the middle of the road in front of it was LuLu. She ran right into my arms.’ He was smiling from ear to ear.
She’s a little worse for wear. Very skinny. She hasn’t grown a bit since she’s been gone. Jeff brought her food bowl out and she ate it in a flash. Then sat on my lap hiccuping. But then, more Pilgrims came demanding smoothies so she lounged near the food truck door. Never letting us out of her sight.
I can’t imagine the adventures she has had in the past three weeks. But I should have known she would eventually make it home. All those other lost items were returned to those for whom they are priceless. So, we were due for a little Camino miracle ourselves for our priceless LuLu. And we got it. Mending our broken hearts in the bargain.