Saturday, December 25, 2004

The Boxes Arrive

cardboard boxes of filesIn most families, boxes of presents appear under a tree this morning. Here we have cardboard boxes filled with all of Grandma E.'s papers. Once she moved to the United States, she became a legal secretary, and she used her training in her personal life. She made a copy of every letter she wrote (marked with a red COPY stamp) and filed it, together with any replies (her husband's first wife had lovely stationary). Tax documents going back further than strictly necessary. Records of magazine subscriptions. A referral (dated September 2004) to a neurologist. Veterinary records of current and former cats.

Many of the most interesting documents are too fragile to scan; the bright light might damage them further.British subject by birth. Wife of a citizen of the United States of America I've come to recognize the short and wide proportions of documents from British registry offices. The thin vellum typing paper of her careful letters. The thick cardboard covers of old British passports. The carefully coded forms of the United States Army.

Reading through the files: the birth certificates, the marriage certificates, the divorce decrees, the death certificates, the accounting of estates, and the correspondence clears up many things that were left vague or unsaid. While these (and her current passport, her social security card, and her green card) are the most interesting things in these boxes, the real task is digging through to figure out which items are necessary in the present. How to cancel her cable service, stop the newspaper delivery, close unnecessary accounts.