The next day at church, I asked around to see if anyone had seen a white trash bag of dirty laundry. No dice. Then Violet began to tell me what was in the bag. Her camp T-shirts from last year and this, both the stake and ward ones. Her camera with all the pictures from camp. The "fish hook necklace" that the girls add charms to each year for the activities they complete, a tomahawk charm, a polar bear swim charm, etc. Saturday I had written off the "everything that was most important" comment because Vi can be a bit of a drama queen at home. But this time she was right. The things couldn't be replaced.
Monday, I began making calls. Four people brought home girls and stuff; I could call three. I drove over to the fourth family. They hadn't seen it. I left messages with two families, but got ahold of the Bishop's wife. She hadn't seen it and told me that the stake and ward people took every scrap home from camp. There would be no point in going up. Violet slouched on the couch, making despondent noises. I waited for the two remaining drivers to get back to me. About three in the afternnon they did, no sign of the trash bag of treasures.
Then the bishop emailed me. His wife had contacted him and asked if he might have mistaken the bag for trash and tossed it when they were packing and cleaning up camp. He remembered hefting something that might have contained clothes, but it was inside another bigger black garbage bag. It seemed too heavy for clothes and so he tossed it. He begged forgiveness and promised to replace whatever was missing. I told Vi of the emails. She moaned in misery.
At that point, I had a decision. I was certain it was tossed. I could give her a hug and tell her to deal with it or I could drive up there and dumpster dive, assuming the garbage had not yet been picked up, a big assumption. I closed my eyes and prayed. The very clear answer was that we should go up.
So we did. We drove two hours and discussed the fact that even though in the eternal scheme of things trinkets like these were not important God knew they were important to her now. I knew they were important to her. I told her that God answered prayers. Sometimes the answer was what we hope for and sometimes the answer was "be more careful with your stuff next time." I might possibly have said the old truism, "Pray like everything depends on the Lord, but work like everything depends on you."
When we arrived at the camp, the gates were locked. We stepped over the chains and sought out the groundskeeper with whom I was slightly acquainted. He was not there. We continued onward to the five tightly-packed dumpsters.
We began pulling out the bags, cardboard, signs and streamers from the first dumpster. Opening each of the bags we found nothing but trash. Violet's sweatshirt and towel were just loose in there though so we felt hopeful. When we got to the bottom ookie drippy layer, we had a choice, jump in or tear them open. We didn't hesitate. Using a broom someone had thrown away, we tore the bags open and found . . . MORE TRASH. We carefully repacked the dumpster and moved on to dumpster #2.
At this point, we began to realize that this was going to be exhausting. We decided to do the top halves of each of the four remaining dumpsters before moving on to the harder gooey layer. And so we did, each bag revealing another layer of Girls Camp waste. When we got the fifth one we did the whole thing and then went back to dumpster #2. Goo, glob, schlop, blech. Remove. Repack. Goo, glob, schlop, blech. Repeat. This was turning out to be a gross crazy Jami story, not a led by the Holy Ghost story.
Finally, we got to the final layer on the final dumpster. The sun was beginning to set, but we needed a rest. Vi was very discouraged. I asked her if she'd prayed and she said that she had. We sat down and Vi said another prayer while I silently prayed something like "Please. Please. Please. This is her faith forming. Please. Please. Please." Then we returned to the final half of the final dumpster.
I kid you not: It was in the very first bag we opened. My silent prayer became much more like, "Thankyouthankyouthankyou! Really? Thankyouthankyouthankyou!"
At that moment the groundskeeper pulled up. Vi told him what was going on so fast, I wonder if he could even tell what she said. I was crying. Vi was laughing. I asked him if he remembered who I was. "Jami, right?" Whew! I wasn't going to jail for trespassing. I asked him if anyone had left soap anywhere. They had.
We packed up the final dumpster and ran over to the sink to soap, scrub and alcohol hand gelled ourselves thoroughly. The groundskeeper gave us some popsicles and walked us out. As he did, he mentioned that we were lucky. The trash people were supposed to pick up the trash earlier that day, but hadn't come.
We felt lucky. We felt blessed. We felt really oogie, slimy and gross.
Faith is a weird thing. Was this God teaching me and my daughter that he cares about her and her concerns enough to save her clearly lost things, or was this just an instance of a mother being tenacious and very lucky? I can see arguments for both, but I believe in God, so my heart chooses the former. This was not the capstone of my belief. He's proven himself in far more important things for me, but because I've known him then, I recognize him now. Any way you slice it, it's a happy story. Here's my happy tired girl.