I lost my umbrella in Penang, Malaysia.
It was the morning of our departure and I noticed its absence as soon as I started packing. A slight panic set in. Our room at the Apollo Inn was small and it took no more than two minutes to determine that my mind was not playing tricks on me. The umbrella was nowhere to be found.
“When did you have it last?” Jimmy asked helpfully. “Where did we go yesterday?” I tried to remember, but the previous day had already become a pleasant blur. Looking under the bed for the fourth time, acceptance set in.
Who cares about a stupid umbrella anyway? I was in Asia after all—the land of umbrellas. But this particular one was not so easily replaced. A child’s umbrella, petite sized and portable, it provided ample enough shade for me and fit perfectly in my backpack—its little curved handle peeking out from between the zippers. Best of all, it was decorated with little cartoon dragons, flying happily to and fro in a field of bright red. From the outside their bodies appeared bright blue with outstretched wings of white, but from my vantage point underneath, they were solid black—my ninja guardians.
My dragon umbrella traveled with me from the United States to Southeast Asia. Twice. It shielded me from sun and rain far better than any hat. My trusty companion, it also served as a pointer, and if necessary, a defense against unruly dogs. So much more than functional, I associated it with the many places we went together and the many adventures I had under its protection. I was truly attached.
Travelers by necessity have few possessions and perhaps that’s what makes what we do have all the more valuable. But I’m also learning to accept that being on the road requires letting go of things along the way. Objects are lost on trains and buses. Precious items disappear in seat cushions and down bathroom sinks. Beloved books are read and purposely abandoned to lighten the load.
Occasionally it is not a something but a someone that comes up missing. Friendships are tested when there is a lot of coming and going and the distance great. I do hope I haven’t lost anyone for good.
As for my little red umbrella with the flying dragons, I’d like to think it’s making someone else smile on the island of Penang.
Postscript: This is an edited version of a earlier post which went missing from my website (just like my umbrella). I took the opportunity to create a new illustration. The original is below.