We found it in an art gallery in a small town in southwestern Ireland—a framed ceramic piece featuring small blue fish swimming in a circle. I told Skylar I thought it would be perfect above our fireplace, "but there's no way we could get that home."
Skylar called the gallery owner over—a middle-aged chatty gay man—and asked him if it was possible to have him ship it.
"I would be a very rich man if I dared to ship art like this," he told us, mentioning that people from outside of Ireland ask him this question all the time. "But no matter how I package ceramic art, it gets destroyed in transit, so I just don't do it anymore."
I, the great defeatist, was already walking out the door, bidding my farewells before he even finished that last sentence.
"There has to be a way," Skylar told me when he joined me out on the sidewalk. "What if we check it as luggage."
I didn't understand how or why he could possibly think that was a good idea. For one, this piece was gigantic. "I don't even think it will fit in our little car, and if it did, do we really want to haul this thing around Ireland for the next ten days?"
But also, why would it be safer to check it as luggage than to ship it? "My new hard case suitcase arrived in Ireland with a giant dent in it. Remember?"
Skylar insisted we could wrap it in "fragile" stickers and that it wouldn't change nearly as many hands at Delta as it might in FedEx.
"Let's at least ask him what he thinks about that idea," he told me, pulling my arm to drag me back into the gallery.
The man, finally worn down by Skylar's persistence, agreed that this might be a safer option. "My husband thinks this is a bad idea," Skylar told him. "But I'm still young so I'm full of youthful ignorance."
We borrowed measuring tape from the gallery so we could measure the car door and figure out if the piece could fit inside.
"You can add one inch on each end," we told him after he offered to box it for us. "Any bigger and we won't be able to get it into the car."
He told us to come back the next morning—he'd spend the evening doing his best to package it in a way that might give it a chance. We returned twelve hours later to find the box. "I think it will be ok if no one drops it," he told us.
"Oh good," I said. "That rarely happens with checked luggage."
Skylar shushed me.
We discovered that in order to get it into the car, we had to move our seats forward. "It will all be worth it when we get it home!" Skylar assured me.
Ten days later we woke up to a notification that our flight from Dublin to JFK was delayed, just enough that we would miss our connecting flight to Salt Lake City.
"Current hold time is 9 hours and 15 minutes," the Delta operator voice told us a few minutes later.
We tried every avenue we could to get ahold of someone, and finally, just as we boarded our very delayed flight, a Delta agent messaged me to say they were putting us on a flight for the following day, meaning we'd have a surprise 24 hours in New York. "That's the best I can do. It's a mess right now," he said.
We arrived at JFK to discover that he absolutely understated this. Bags were piled across the airport. Lines to check in for flights stretched outside and down the sidewalk. Apparently many flights had been canceled and everyone was in need of some kind of help.
After waiting a full eternity to pick up our bags at baggage claim, we finally accepted that they had been lost. All of them. A very exhausted Delta employee sitting behind a desk informed us a while later that three of them had been put on a flight to Salt Lake City. The fourth one, "the odd shaped package, well, I don't know where that is."
I had to laugh. After driving this thing around two countries for a week and a half, I was sure we were going to put it onto a plane to be broken. It never occurred to me that it would just simply be lost.
"So we're never going to see that again, are we?" I said to Skylar as we left the airport to go to a friend's house to sleep for the night.
"Yeah, it's definitely gone," Skylar said.
The following day we finally arrived in Salt Lake City, where we wandered to baggage claim to talk to some people in another office. They took us to a back room and had us look around to see if we could find our things there.
There were our three bags, all looking worse for the wear. And then, as we scanned the room one more time, we saw it: a flat box, punctured in a few places and dented on all four sides.
Skylar opened it before we unpacked any of our luggage. "I'll get the vacuum," I told him, anticipating that I would need it to clean up the ceramic dust I was sure would soon pour out of this thing.
He finished unwrapping it, and we both gasped.
Not a scratch.
I emailed the gallery to let them know, and sent a picture as well. They responded 20 minutes later: "I truly cannot believe this."
~It Just Gets Stranger