I’ve never been super orderly or systematic, but for years, filing papers seemed like the responsible thing to do. Before computers and the Internet, you needed hard copies of financial, health, and school records. Digital wasn’t an option. Sometimes the only convenient way to access a how-to lore was to keep a photocopy of it. As part of an office redo, I’ve been sorting, tossing, and shredding old paper files. Although some of what I saved makes sense, a lot of it is baffling.
1972 – High school diploma from the pre-digital age when paper was the only valid proof.
1976 – Where’s my college diploma? Good thing I don’t have to prove that anymore.
1979 – Graduate school grade reports. Why?? And inexplicably, grade slips from three management classes my father took.
1978 – A photocopy of copyright information (pre-Internet). I suspect I hoped to publish something worthy of a copyright.
1984-85 – Wedding catering quotes. I truly don’t know why I kept these. Maybe I thought the information would be helpful when my sister married. Years after our wedding, when I rediscovered the file, I kept it for its entertainment value: Miss Lucille’s Catering: hot buffet with two meats, one kind of potato, one vegetable, a salad, and dinner rolls for $4.75 per person. Plus $1.50 for china, silverware and linen service. Despite the reasonable prices, we went with another caterer, but I didn’t keep that!
1988 and 1991 – Proposals to work remotely after our sons were born. WAY before corporations were flexible with working mothers. I outlined a plan to return to full-time work after my maternity leave. I would work mornings at home and afternoons in the office for several months. I’m still surprised and grateful I got to do it. Twice.
1992 – Landscape plans for our old house. We haven’t lived there for 5+ years. Why’d I keep them? Maybe because I put a ton of sweat and love into those gardens, a passion that developed after our second son was born in 1991. Gardening was a creative outlet that didn’t require a babysitter.
1995 – 2006 – Vendor contracts and confidentiality agreements. I was in business from 1992 – 2010, but either companies didn’t require agreements or I quit saving them.
2005 – Records from breast biopsy #2 and #3 – stereotactic then excisional. I don’t know why I kept the details from this painful time. Maybe to remind myself how lucky I’d been?
2008 – Adjunct teaching contract from St. Thomas University’s Master of Business Communications program. One class, one semester: $4050. Even then, it wasn’t much money.
2013 – Yellowed copy of a Star Tribune review of an anthology in which I had an essay.
This ephemera maps some of what I thought was valuable, but I wasn’t saving the right stuff.
The real treasures are the snapshots from the 1920s and 1940s tucked in with some of my mother’s Medicare records. I also found four thin files of family history written by my parents, sister, and me.
If only my file drawers held more of what’s precious—my parents’ belief in education. The hopeful start of my parents’ and grandparents’ loving marriages. Irreplaceable stories about immigrant ancestors.