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This week, First Person takes a closer look at love and heartbreak.
I love a beautiful vista as much as the next person, but I have always directed my gaze downward wherever I walk. Maybe the habit goes back to searching for fossils in the Badlands of Alberta as a child (and the great thrill of discovering dinosaur bones), but I like to keep my eyes peeled for those unexpected treasures that others seem to overlook. So it is of no surprise that I partake in my “obsession” (as some of my more charitable family members call it) while walking the dog up and down Toronto’s Don Valley. Among the numerous small but interesting objects I’ve picked up: a 1915 penny, a woman’s silver pencil etched with the year 1902 and a lead toy soldier from the First World War, all of them fascinating, or at least to me.
Last January, a few days after an unusually big snowstorm, I was trudging up and down the valley with Luna, my loyal but somewhat bored golden retriever. Snow days are not the best for treasure hunting, so I was surprised to see a glint of gold. I carefully extracted a ring of three entwined bands of different-coloured gold, emblazoned with the large Cartier logo.
At first, I walked into the local coffee shop to see if anybody had reported lost jewellery, and then headed home to print up posters, with suitably cryptic descriptions of the ring, to tape to nearby telephone poles. I even tried a local Facebook group after my wife, showing admirable restraint, agreed that I must do all I could to bring about the ring’s return to its rightful owner.
I waited and waited but nobody called to lay claim to my small treasure, and having carefully hidden it from my cat atop my tallest bookshelf, I eventually forgot all about it. That is, until many months later when my wife and I took a trip to Amsterdam to visit our daughter. I figured that somebody may as well enjoy the ring, so I took it along and was delighted to see that it looked beautiful on her hand. But my daughter’s eyesight is far better than my own, and she soon noted a tiny inscription on the inside of one of the bands that read, “Omar and Yoshi.”
Right away, she said that she could never feel comfortable wearing a ring that was so obviously of importance to somebody else. I had to agree and took the ring home, vowing to do whatever I could to track down this couple.
Back in Toronto, my son and I searched for wedding notices but there was nothing on record for those two names, and so we began our deep dive into social media. We found hundreds of matching name profiles, but nothing that would allow us to really zero in. When something looked even remotely hopeful, we messaged the couple but received only apologetic, negative responses. This was not their ring.
Frustrated, I began to give up hope, then had one last thought - why not call Cartier stores in the city?
Checking online, I picked one at random and dialed. An understandably bemused gentleman listened to my story, went silent for a couple of minutes and then stated that the ring was totally untraceable. He apologized, and I was about to hang up when he suddenly asked if I had found a name on the ring. I told him just the first name, Omar. “Omar?” he said excitedly. "Omar and Yoshi?” He’d just remembered that two friends of his had mentioned losing their ring, but almost nobody returns lost jewellery, so he had quickly forgotten about it. He gave me Omar’s phone number and I called right away. To my great disappointment, I reached his answering machine and left a brief message about maybe finding a ring. I waited impatiently for several hours until I finally got the call I was waiting for. Omar was overjoyed, and asked if he could come by to meet me first thing in the morning.
Bright and early, there was a knock at my door and on my porch stood two handsome young men with outstretched arms and a bottle of wine. They came inside and we started tripping over each other trying to tell our respective stories. I explained how the ring had travelled to Europe and back, and only because of that trip had we discovered their names. I showed them the signs I had put up and how we had searched for them in vain. Before I could hear their story, though, Yoshi slipped on the band and both men triumphantly held up their left hands to show their matching rings. Omar was originally from Colombia and Yoshi from Mexico. They had met in Toronto and married the previous December at a small ceremony where they gave each other these rings. Just a few weeks later – after the first real snowstorm of the winter – they decided to do something truly Canadian and bought a toboggan, carrying it to the steep hills of Riverdale Park.
Their first run was spectacular, very fast and very scary. As they pulled themselves up out of the snow at the bottom of the hill, another toboggan smashed into Yoshi, sending him cartwheeling across the field. They hobbled back up the hill and straight to the emergency department to set his broken arm. It was only then that they discovered that Yoshi’s new ring was missing. Heartbroken to have lost it so soon after their wedding, Omar went back to the hill the next day to search, but it was hopelessly gone, or so it seemed.
I now have a great photo of the three of us in my house, with our arms around each other’s shoulders and their hands raised to show off the rings. We stay in touch and, honestly, I can’t imagine a more fitting and quintessentially Canadian love story to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I look forward to seeing them back at the park some time soon, but maybe this time, we won’t stand around at the bottom of the hill.
Douglas Lawrence lives in Toronto.