My attic is filled with boxes of letters. I have construction paper birthday cards from my first-grade birthday party, with acorns and oak leaves glued to the fronts to commemorate our attendance at Oak Grove Elementary. I have 30-plus years' worth of Christmas cards from family and friends, and a box of letters from my pen pal in Barcelona during my four years of Spanish you couldn't tell I've taken. I have no idea what she wrote.
But the vast majority of letters are from my mother, written from the day I left home at 18 years of age to shortly before her massive stroke in 2011. Piles and piles of letters, telling me things like:
"You remember Dorothy Edwards? You know, she was married to Edna's boy -- twice. They married, then divorced, then married other folks, then 20 years later, married each other again. You remember her -- she held you once at the Big Star grocery store when you were about 6 months old. Well, she told me to tell you hi."
"I went to the community college to learn about these computers and figure out email. I hit some button and wiped everything out. I still don't know what I did."
"The cannas have taken over the back yard. They sure are pretty, but if they make it to the septic tank, we might be done in."
Most letters are enclosed with coupons, pictures of flowers and pets, and an obituary of someone I do not know. Sometimes, I wonder why I keep these items. I tell myself that I might go back and read them someday. Chances are, I will not. They'll just be something thrown away with my other "treasures" when I kick the bucket, unlikely to be of any use to anyone. Then, the most unexpected thing happened...
A few weeks ago, I was handling a probate estate, and it was discovered that the person who died had unclaimed funds held by the state auditor. While filling out the forms for my client, I thought I'd just run my name and see what happened. Sure enough, in my maiden name sat a utility deposit I'd failed to receive when I moved from an apartment in college. It wasn't but $30, but that's $30 I'd rather have than give to the state, so I filled out a form to claim the funds. The only problem was, I had to prove I'd lived at that address 30 years ago.
Now, how on earth was I going to prove I'd lived there? I couldn't provide any of the documentation they requested. I racked my brain and then ... Mama called my name.
I climbed into the attic, dug through boxes, and found mail sent to that address in the name of "Lisa Baker." Thanks to Mama and Dorothy Edwards, I won the pack rat race. And I could also save 25 cents on Pepsi if Walmart would honor coupons from 1987.