By Gale Fiege, Herald Writer
OAK HARBOR — There, in a pile of pebbles and grime, Jack Robinson saw a sparkle.
It happens a lot after the city sewer lines are flushed. Cell phones, coins, keys, toys, wallets, even underwear. Everything that goes down a drain.
“Actually, if you can think of it, we’ve probably seen it,” Robinson said. “We don’t sift through it, but sometimes things catch your eye.”
Most goes to the landfill.
But this time, the wastewater treatment plant operator waded across the gunk to look at the shiny thing.
It was a class ring. Oak Harbor High School, 1993. The name “Cynthia” was engraved by the stone.
He graduated from Oak Harbor that year, too.
“I was excited. My wife, Naomie, and I actually knew several (women named Cynthia) in that class,” Robinson said. “So we set out to find her.”
* * *
The ferrets owned by Oak Harbor High School teachers Cynthia Vick Allen and Kevin Allen were so frisky the couple kept them in the bathroom during the day. The female, Nessie, eventually learned how to pull herself up onto the toilet.
One day Nessie got messy.
The ferret knocked over everything displayed on the toilet tank.
After school, Cynthia Allen picked the candles and a broken little dish off the floor.
Later she remembered that two of her favorite rings had been in the little dish.
A frantic search down the heating vent and around the tub revealed nothing.
By then, the toilet had been flushed several times.
The rings were gone.
One was a stunning diamond-encrusted aquamarine birthstone belonging to her mother, Harriet Vick. It was the something old, borrowed and blue Cynthia Vick wore when she married Kevin Allen.
After the wedding the Allens got jobs teaching high school science and math at her alma mater. Their neighborhood, one of those behind Kmart on Highway 20, was a great place to start.
A couple months after the rings were lost, their son Odin was born.
“I was too busy to think about the rings, and I could not bring myself to tell my mother,” said Allen, 35. “I was heartbroken, but I was convinced I would never get them back. I had to kiss them goodbye.”
* * *
The class ring did not belong to the first Cynthia who Jack and Naomie Robinson tracked down.
So Robinson decided he would do a search on Facebook.
Cynthia Vick Allen was on the social networking site. He sent her a message asking if she had lost her class ring down the drain.
“She responded right away and then asked about her mom’s ring. Well, the day I found the class ring, I saw something else that looked like costume jewelry. I just about tossed it,” Robinson said. “I polished up the rings as best I could. It was the first time I found something that belonged to someone I know and the first thing of real value besides some quarters.
“Every waste water department in this country has a great story to tell. This is mine.”
* * *
“When I got the message from Jack a couple weeks ago, I was flabbergasted and jumping for joy,” Allen said. “I was so happy my heart was pounding. The rings were a little dinged up, but they’re back on my fingers.”
In the year since the rings were flushed down the toilet, her son celebrated his first birthday and the Allens moved to a new home.
Along with their dogs, a cat and an iguana, the Allens still have two ferrets, including Nessie. They don’t keep valuable things on top of the toilet tank anymore.
“I finally told my mom about her ring,” Allen said. “She understood. She’s just glad that I got it back.
“The planets had to align perfectly for that to happen. What are the chances, really? It was amazing.”
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.