Walking through Indiana University’s Atwater Parking Garage after a performance of “Les Miserables” two years ago, Sarah Curtiss found a locket that contained someone’s family photos.
The heart-shaped locket, on a gold chain, apparently had been discovered on the ground and someone hung it on the handle of a stairwell doorway.
Curtiss paused, then tucked the necklace inside her purse. “I couldn’t just leave it there,” she said. “It was really late, and no one was around.”
She would try to find the owner of the necklace, whose sentimental value outweighs its monetary worth. “It’s a keepsake, a scratched-up old locket. You can tell it was loved and worn, and clearly the people inside were very much loved.”
Curtiss knew it would be missed.
“I figure it probably was someone who went to the show,” she said; it had run several nights. “It obviously meant enough that they were wearing it or carrying it with them on a special evening.”
Within weeks, a deadly pandemic would take hold. But that night, all was well. Familiar lyrics from her favorite musical, mostly wistful and sad, flowed through her mind as she walked to her car.
“Empty chairs at empty tables, where my friends shall sing no more.”
A connection to strangers
Curtiss attended that Feb. 8, 2020, show with her friend John Wright. The IU Auditorium was packed, and she rushed to get to there in time after taking pictures at a wedding in Indianapolis.
“Going to ‘Les Mis’ was the last normal thing I did before the COVID shutdown,” Curtiss said this week.
The locket has become a symbol of that. “I’ve had a connection to these people during this time of disconnect. They’ve been with me two years.”
Her search for the owner of the locket continues. “I wonder who the people are, and who loved them.”
Open up the locket, and the picture on the right shows a man and woman, likely married, seated in front of a photo-studio backdrop. He’s wearing a white dress shirt and a tie. Her oversized plastic-frame glasses date the photo to the 1980s.
A picture of two young women framed in the other side looks as if the tiny faces were cut from the same family picture, the kind you might find in a church membership directory.
More than a necklace
Lockets date back to the 16th century, when they were worn as amulets, sometimes to ward off evil spirits or to contain a special lock of hair, a perfume-soaked cloth, or even poison.
Over time, the hinged pendants evolved into mementoes, worn close to the heart, that contain tiny photos of loved ones.
Curtiss said her search for whoever lost the locket she found hanging from that stairwell doorknob continues.
It’s displayed on a bulletin board in her home office. She sees it every day while working, and it can distract her.
“There’s been so much loss and grief, I find myself wondering if they are still around, what’s happened with their family, things like that.”
It’s been almost two years, and still no leads. She reported the find to IU’s lost-and-found department. Pictures of the locket posted on social media, with information about where and when it was found, have yielded no clues.
“With the new year, I decided I just want, my heart wants, to get it home to its owner,” Curtiss said.
If you recognize the lost locket or the people pictured, contact reporter Laura Lane at email@example.com or 812-318-5967.