So, this week the Premier of British Columbia declared a province-wide state of emergency due to the forest fires we are experiencing. He stressed that all BC'ers should have an evacuation plan. Those words made life a little bit interesting at my house, because I decided that even though there are no fires currently in my immediate vicinity, that could change at any time. I packed a go bag, just in case. I also figured I should locate all my important papers -- mainly, my home ownership documents. Only, I COULDN'T FIND THEM!
Over the years, I have accumulated several accordion-style file folders. I have one with receipts from my writing and editing business, a really old one from when the kids were little, and two others with a plethora of receipts and what not in case I ever got audited. In those files, I also have the important things like the deed to my home, insurance documents, my divorce papers, my will, my power of attorney in the case of my parent's death. I thought these papers were all together in one folder -- the oldest folder. I was mostly right. They were all there with the exception of the deed to my home. You gotta be kidding me!
It was three in the afternoon when I first started searching. That search continued all evening. I looked in cupboards, on the top shelf of my closet, in the drawers of my night stand, throughout my office, and in three out of four of those file folders. I found nothing. And I found everything.
We have always had a bit of a family debate about when we moved to our current home. Roughly speaking, I was in my second year of university when I bought the place. Pretty sure. I bought in April, of that I was certain, because I spent a couple of months renovating it in between and after classes then commuting home to Vernon where the kids were. For about one last month of the school year, we reversed that. We all moved into our new place, but I drove the kids to their old school to finish the year. The actual date, though, has grown hazy. That can happen when you are a single mother to four children. Now I know -- we moved in on May 25, 2005. Or, at least, that was the date on the receipt I found yesterday for the change of address at the post office.
I've also debated with my son, Brian, about where he started school. He was pretty sure he'd started in our current town, but I've always thought he did kindergarten in Vernon. Well, I found the children's elementary school class pictures. Debate solved: I was right.
The things I found in those file folders were the markers of a life -- my life. I found the legal documents granting me sole custody of my children. Macfarlane v Macfarlane. In movies, you just don't get the impact of what that little phrase means. There's a whole lot of angst, a whole lot of story and sadness that goes into that one little line on a document.
As a single parent, I was always broke, and often felt like something of a failure. In my magic accordion of memories, though, I found receipts for childcare, for computer camp, for sports camps, for school fees and various field trips. I found their swimming badges from those lessons. I found the receipt for my boy's bunk beds, found the receipt for their drum kit. I realized, wow, I didn't do so badly, after all! I poured my life and my money into them. Maybe I couldn't give them as much as some families, but I was sifting through the proof that I gave them whatever I had to give.
I found the drawings I did at the age of fourteen, the many pictures and cards and school projects the kids had made for me over the years. I also found report cards -- theirs and mine. Plus, I found the apology note from my youngest for colouring on my sink, and the appreciation note from Brian's teacher, which said he had worked really hard and caught up on all the work he had missed. I was so proud!
I found pay stubs from the jobs I worked when we first moved to the Okanagan, and one from my parent's home in Surrey, BC, where I was living when I met the man I'd one day marry. Then I found a receipt for rent at the first apartment he and I shared. Plus, I found a really old letter from him telling me how to get an item which he had defaulted on taken off my credit score (long story, but let's just say, it's not easy breaking apart two lives).
I found a page from an old address book with the addresses of the people who I was in a band with -- back in 1991 -- on it. Andy, who broke my little heart; Karla, who I still love to this day. And I found a receipt to replace the transmission in a van I once owned and had named Christine since her windshield wipers would randomly come on from time to time. Even back in 2006, it was not cheap to replace a transmission!
One of my finds was a letter telling me the date and time of registering for my first classes at Okanagan University College -- now UBC Okanagan. I also found the acceptance letter I received which welcomed me into the Graduate Studies Program there four years later. Then I found a surprise: transcripts from the University my youngest will be attending in September. I had taken some correspondence courses, but I hadn't even remembered that I'd taken them there. It was all kinds of fun showing her that her school was mine first -- and pointing out the letter grade I'd earned -- one she will now have to live up to.
There were some sad finds, like the postcards that my ex sent the kids right after we split, but mostly, this was like a time capsule of a life. Bills and receipts and purchases and accomplishments. Dreams and disappointments, and, apparently scribbled on sinks. I photographed and emailed off the little bits I found to the children as I pawed through the boxes. This was the tangible evidence of the life I shared with my kids.
I did find my home owner's documents. Not until the next morning and four garbage bags later, though, and it involved crawling through some cobwebs and a lot of dust. They were in the fourth accordion. Since I'd already Googled what to do if I couldn't find them, by then I wasn't too worried. And the trip down memory lane was totally worth the temporary concern which prompted the search. At the end of the day, I have to say, we did not too badly, the kids and I. And if life worked that way, I'd gladly do it all again.