Everyone has their own New Year's tradition - sleep, food, football. Mine, although decidedly unglamorous and definitely not high on the excitement scale, leans toward the more tedious and necessary end of the scale, but often ends up being enjoyable. Every New Year's Day I clean out our records for the past year from our filing cabinet. Pay stubs, insurance statements and receipts, bills paid, contributions - they're all there waiting to be put in order and stored for the appropriate number of years until they can be shredded into oblivion. Storing another year's worth of records means it's time to shred a year. Those about-to-be-shredded documents are a trip down memory lane.
As I sort through these records, I see the names of stores where we shopped. Many of them are no longer - Profitt's, Montgomery Ward, even from long-gone stores in Pittsburgh - Kaufmann's and Lazarus - where I used to take advantage of those post-Christmas sales. (Oh my goodness!
Are those Christmas dishes I forgot to unpack this year really that old?) There were payments to "Frontiervision" and "Alltell", places that no longer exist. Grocery store trips, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club visits, hair salon visits. All recorded by those cancelled checks.
Those cancelled checks tell the story of our lives during those years. Checks written to the Band Boosters for band camp, marching band shoes, items purchased from seemingly unending fund raisers, souvenir T-shirts and videos from band completions. Checks to two different music stores for the first two trumpets of three or four to come into our home. Records of school pictures, sports pictures, and band pictures. Lunch fees. Book fees. Lab fees. Yearbook fees. There were even statements from a trip to the emergency room while at a marching band competition. I remember that trip. I don't remember what body part of my older son was injured this time, but I remember missing the competition to have the injury taken care of.
There were checks for a varsity jacket - it could have been for band or sports or both. How important those jackets were. I even came across a cancelled check for "Sports Illustrated for Kids" - the only thing I could get my younger son to willingly read. (Now he reads "ESPN - The Magazine" but I'd like to think this started it all!)
There was also a sense of accomplishment as I saw the checks for accounts that have been paid in full. Our utility bills have surprisingly remained about the same over the years. Of course there are the payments to companies we still pay now, helping me realize the more things change the more they stay the same.
We've gone through good times and bad. Our income has gone up and down. Our charitable contributions have done the same. But, we've managed to stay afloat through it all. As I shred documents in the future, I'm sure there will be less cancelled checks to sort through as debit cards, on-line payments, and direct payments take the place of written checks. I admit I won't miss the 'shredding party' and the file clean-out, but I will miss the short walk down memory lane.
Sue Sampson is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.