I received a letter a few weeks ago from my bank telling me that they were about to begin remodelling our local branch and saying that all customers with safe deposit boxes needed to clear out their contents before July 1st.
I had two boxes at this particular bank office, largely because I’ve never learned how to throw things away. It’s a gene I inherited from my father. He died in 2003 with a tattered black and white photo of his 1931 college graduating class on his desk. Rather than throwing things away, if you’re an Anderson, you just find creative places to hide them from yourself.
You would not believe some of the things I had hidden in my safe deposit boxes. Aside from a lot of things related to my career, I found important papers like my will, my birth certificate, my children’s original Social Security cards, and the like. But how about a letter handwritten by my grandfather in 1944 telling my dad he was proud of him for enlisting in the military? A letter I wrote my dad about the same time telling him that I wanted to play music, and I wished he would buy me a P. Anna. And that’s just how I spelled it…P. Anna. Sounded right to me.
I brought the contents of the boxes home and spread them out on my dining room table. I tried to separate the business papers from my personal papers, but they all seemed to run together. A silver dollar minted in 1872. Another minted exactly one-hundred years later in 1972. Pictures of a family Christmas in 1995 spent at the Opryland Hotel. A half-dozen trinkets that had once hung from my mother’s charm bracelet. A photo from my parents’ 1933 wedding. The U.S. Passports they had gotten for their first overseas trip in the early seventies. And a very special letter from my mother to me.
She had written it on October 26, 1993, in her rapidly declining handwriting. She was telling me the joys I was about to experience with the birth of my first grandchild which, it turned out, was a month and two days away. She had gone on and on about how special grandkids are…and teased me about how grandparents can spoil the kids and then return them to their rightful owners.
Why was this so special to me? Because I read the letter less than six hours before that very granddaughter would be graduating from high school. It gave me goosebumps, and a whole new perspective on her graduation.
I’m still sorting through things, throwing away hardened rubber bands, bent paperclips, and very little else. Once a pack-rat, always a pack-rat. There’s no cure. But that’s not all bad.
In and amongst all the other treasures and trinkets, I found a cassette recording of a telephone conversation between me and my dad from back in 1978. As I listened, I knew why I had never thrown it away.
It was on June 25th, and I had called to wish him a happy birthday….and to tell him that he had a new grandson born on his special day. We were naming him for my dad…James William Anderson the 4th. The sound of my dad’s trembling voice on the other end of the phone line is well worth every dime I spent keeping the tape in my lock box all these years.
I’m glad he showed me how to be a pack-rat. I think I make a pretty a good one.