3 Years Later, A Surprising Reunion with Something Important

reunited with my backpack

A few weeks into December, I received a message in my “requests” folder on Facebook. I didn’t know it at the time, since it was buried in Facebook purgatory. It was only a month later that I thought to check my requests inbox. I found the following message.

Hi, you don’t know me, but we found a backpack with your credit cards in it on my roof in Park Slope Brooklyn. Did you by any chance lose or have a backpack stolen in the last few years? If so, let me know; there are a couple of things still in it.

My heart just about stopped in my chest.

For those newer to the site: when I was in the ER in August 2017, getting a spinal tap that would leave me disabled, the apartment I was cat-sitting for was burgled. In fact, the time that the burglar entered the apartment (per the time stamp on the apartment’s baby cam) was the same time that the doctor was starting the lumbar puncture.

Setting aside the creepiness of that confluence, part of what was stolen was my trusty Tom Bihn synapse daybag. The thief used it to gather my belongings and those of the apartment tenants, stuffing the backpack with things but leaving me my Canadian passport and a $5 Canadian bill on the couch when he left.

Once my heart started beating normally again, I replied to this woman thanking her and trying not to overwhelm her with all the crazy details of the night this all happened. I asked where she was located, and briefly explained that the robbery happened while I was in the hospital, and I never expected to see my bag or its contents again.

It turns out that she lived only a few houses down from the house-sit, and had recently paid someone to clean her chimney after a few years. It was the chimney cleaner who found my backpack tucked into the side of the chimney vent on the roof of her house.

In the backpack was a few random and not useful things: a blue dice that was not mine, my old hand lotion, some Tylenol, and business cards from a travel meet and greet. Happily, it also contained both pairs of prescription glasses that I had to replace following the burglary. The glasses frames are warped from years of temperature fluctuations, but should be able to be adjusted at an optometrist. Among the items was also a few of my credit cards.

The woman at the apartment a few doors down looked me up on Facebook after the chimney cleaner gave her the bag, and sent me a message. I assume she realized it must have been a few years ago since those cards had all expired.

Tom Bihn Bag
Reunited and… I am not sure it feels so good?

What wasn’t included: the laptop that was stolen, the money, the jewelry stolen from the apartment, and more.

As you can imagine, this lady’s message brought back all of the feelings. I wrote her back, but it took some time for her to view my reply, and in that time I was flooded with resurfaced memories. That evening was the worst in my life. To have an unexpected reminder felt like kicking up a lot of sediment from the bottom of a lake that appeared to be clear. It did serve as an opportunity to work through some of those emotions in ways I hadn’t yet gotten to, though and I am grateful for that. Ultimately, it was a good exercise.

And of course I am very grateful for her efforts to reach me.

In the end, one of my best friends went to pick up the backpack. This friend is Cheryl, someone I went to law school with. We became good friends when she offered to sew a mermaid tail out of sequinned stretch fabric so I could sing a parody rendition of Part of Your World from the Little Mermaid. (The song was “Part of that Firm” and yes, the tail had little elastics so I could flop it around stage when I walked. And no, I am too old for there to be a digital version of this rendition. Thank god.)

Cheryl and I ended up working at the same New York firm many years later, and were pretty much inseparable by then. We’d grab lunch together, we’d alternate coffee runs, and when quit my law job to travel we stayed in touch and I often house-sat for her and her husband when I went back to New York in the summers.

I mention all of this because Cheryl knows me knows me – she knows all the things that make me happy and make me sad. And she knew, of course, just how much of a mindfuck getting this backpack would be.

So, she set upon the backpack with a loving frenzy, to make me feel better. She not only washed it and dried it, but mailed it back to me full of llamas.

A llama sweatshirt, llama Christmas tree ornaments, llama card, llama notebooks, and more.

llama sweatshirt
Llamatastic, with love

I wondered what to do with the backpack, now that I had it back. Tom Bihn had kindly mailed me a replacement when they read the story of the burglary, and I was using it day to day.

I contemplated burning it, or shredding it, or just donating it. But ultimately, it felt like a bit of a miracle that it had returned, so unusually, over three years later. I decided to offer it to another good friend who would appreciate the tenacity of the backpack and also use it for her own needs. And who would appreciate the llamafication of it once it was found.

Her reaction to my offer was exactly my train of thought: that it was a miracle bag and deserved a good home, transmuting the bad into something useful and kind.

It may seem like just a backpack, but for those few weeks it felt like it held all of the liminal weight of a life about to change. Until it had a new home, the backpack was a holding of my breath, the transient space between an old, mobile Jodi and a Jodi that I am still getting to know.

There was some power in it for me, feeling like it came around again on the spiral of life. Power in managing the emotions that receiving the bag dredged up. And a hope that by closing that chapter, it would bring me more healing in the future.

Since you’ve all come along with me during this extraordinary ride, I wanted to share this story.

Someone once told me I was an outlier of possibilities, and I suppose being reunited with this bag falls into that category. All I can do is ride the waves as they hit, and try to feel the strength that comes from making my way through them.

Brief other updates:

  • The Patreon! We are up to 209 patrons, and it’s a lovely new community. I’ve enjoyed sharing shorter posts there and the feedback has been great.
  • Newsletter! Despite my leaky state, I’ve managed to get out a newsletter monthly, filled with the best long reads from the prior month, and a grab bag of fun things to explore from around the web.
  • Redesign! It’s not yet done but we’re close. I’m excited.

I hope everyone is staying safe and doing well.


24 thoughts on “3 Years Later, A Surprising Reunion with Something Important”

  1. Wow, Jodi – that’s amazing! A mindfuck indeed – my jaw dropped as well, when I read that the backpack had been found. Love the llama aspect, and that it will find a good home to heal its Karma.

  2. I love it when an experience is connected to music or a song. Wow. That is an amazing story. In the chimney. I can not help but thinking that this is a good omen, despite the reminder of that day and what followed from it. What an amazing good friend you have. Lucky you. I love you! John

    1. Oh yes! I’m not planning on a memoir, but I agree if I were it would be a good title. (I joked that if I wrote one it would be called ‘the city i love is trying to kill me’ about my time in Vietnam, but my journey evolved and so has a potential title!)

  3. Beautifully written and such an amazing coincidence. I’m not a superstitious person but the bag coming back to you – it’s sort of like a gift from the universe.

  4. What a roller coaster of emotions. And an amazing tale of how the universe ties up loose ends and brings people closer together. I’ve been reading the book The Mindbody Prescription, about the way emotions affect us physically. I hope perhaps, if this at all true (and I think it is), that maybe this odd and unexpected reunion, and all the emotions you expressed, as you say, further healing can begin.

  5. I’ve been following you for YEARS back in 2008 days. So it was so sad to hear of this when I first read about it. But how strange that the bag came back. I like the other comment feel that it’s a sign or omen as well. Perhaps a little gentle nudge from the universe that you’ll eventually get back to your oldself and the backpack was a sign of that.

    Wild story for sure and I can see how that would bring up a lot of emotions and memories but my gut feels it’s more good than reminding you of something bad that happened that day.

    Thanks for sharing this. :)

    1. Oh yay! An old-timer. So lovely to hear you’re still reading. I’m curious to see what if anything emerges from this strange miracle bag. I’d be grateful for more mobility and the ability to travel even a little more. I do think that my old self is long gone. The mental work during the last few years has left me feeling more content and more strong than ever before, despite the very tiny physical life I get to lead. I’m still “me” but when I think back to some of the thought patterns I had, I am glad for the work I’ve done now. Whatever comes next, I hope it’s good as you said! Thanks for the comment, Laura.

  6. All of that. Just WOW. Maybe even more meaning will reveal itself in the weeks months and years ahead. i like to think so. For now, just powerful and cool and not-quite-sure-what-it’s-omening.

    1. Hi Rachel, nice to see your comment – you’re one of the longer-term readers, and it always makes me happy to see when one of them is still reading. I suppose we will see. It would be lovely for it to bring about some sort of healing path, but I’ve tried to approach it with the same curiosity as everything else. Quite a trippy story….

  7. Wowzer – what a thing to pop up after 3 years; it’s crazy (though beautifully written as usual!).
    As a happy supporter of both you (woot for Patreon) and Tom Bihn, I’m relieved that instead of destroying the Synapse, you passed it along to a friend who can use it as a force for good; especially now that it has some llama love!
    Even though the memories it all raised were painful, I hope that by processing through them it also helped a touch with closure, as you said.
    Please keep keeping on and writing :)

    1. hi Wendy, thank you for your support and your comment. I sent the story to Tom Bihn via Twitter but not sure if they’ll see it. And yes, it felt wrong to destroy the bag. It’s funny, another friend said ‘but the bag is a bad omen’ and I honestly don’t feel that way at all. It’s scrappy and came back and still works well, even if it’s been through a lot. I hope, like me? :) Thanks again!

  8. J! This is absolutely unbelievable! Your writing is stunning and I’m envisioning a future motion picture chronicling your adventures and this backpack. Plus llamas. of course llamas.

  9. Jodi what an amazing story of the stolen backpack and its totally unexpected return. Of course, you will have mixed feelings about what the backpack reminds you of, both that horrible experience of its disappearance and also how things have changed with you in the meantime. I would take the recovery of the bag as a symptom or spiritual message, something that I never thought to be a serious likelihood. But to have something like that appear in one’s life is astounding and definitely positive… I think old lawyers like us
    need magic in their lives – and it doesn’t often come from legal work…

    1. It doesn’t, it’s true. And the magic of the return certainly feels miraculous! I just went to get my glasses adjusted to see if they could be salvaged and they fit like before. Will have to replace the lenses on one of them but they’re otherwise in good shape. So crazy! Thank you for reading, as always <3

  10. Linked here from your newsletter. Wow. Mindfuck, yes. I worked in behavioral health with military combat veterans with PTSD for a number of years. If a person physically survives their original trauma and lives long enough after these “reunions” with triggers occur more commonly than one might imagine. What a healthy choice for coping. Self care first, always.

  11. Hi Ya Jodi…
    Just like your backpack you appeared “out of the blue” in my inbox. What a delight and smile your appearance created within my heart.
    Now we have found our way back together I look forward to “seeing” more of you wandering across pages of my life.
    Your words are beautifully crafted and take me a long with you.
    Much Love all ways Keith

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