Wednesday, September 7, 2011

“The Metal Box”


As long as I can remember, my parents have had a metal box filled with all of their important papers. I don’t know when they assembled the documents of their lives. Perhaps they’ve always had the box. I do know that the box made an appearance each time my parents evacuated for a hurricane. When my parents and brother made their way up to San Antonio to escape a storm, they tucked the metal box behind the driver’s seat. The papers within this little case provided protection from disaster: life insurance policies on each family member (they still have policies on each of us kids), flood insurance and home insurance, deeds, wills, marriage license, social security cards, birth certificates, military records. My father assembled a list of important phone numbers (like the DOD and Social Security) for us to use either of them died. That way everything would be in one spot in case of an emergency. I’ll never forget the gratitude I felt that my father had taken care of all of this information. Some of the items he had on his check list had to be done within a certain amount of time after he died. We would have been clueless without his thoughtful guidance.
The metal box moved to San Antonio when Mom left League City. Yesterday, I hauled it out in search of the deed to the Leakey property. One of our “neighbors” wants to put in electricity on his acreage, and the electric co-op needs Mom to sign a Utility Easement form. The document’s blanks follow the deed exactly—at least, I think it does. I couldn’t find the deed, or any documentation on the property, in the container. With a phone call to the proper county office, a county official read the deed information to me. It troubled me, though, to find that some important papers have managed to escape their metal home. When I asked my mother about the deed, she recalled changing the form into her name after Dad died, which was ten years ago. She distinctly remembered putting everything pertaining to the property into a manila envelope. She thought she’d returned it all to the box. I imagine she placed the packet in a drawer after receiving the changed title with the idea of dragging out the metal box later. I’m certain, if I made a quick search through the League City home, I’d find the envelope labeled “IMPORTANT” and “DO NOT THROW AWAY” with “LEAKEY, TEXAS” all in bold letters on the front. Anyway, I decided I needed to spend a little time organizing the metal box, putting the papers toward the front that I’ll need once my mother dies. It saddened me to sort through these documents, but I know it’s best to do this now.
It’s natural, of course, that I followed the example set by my parents. My box nestles on the floor of the master bedroom closet. It, too, contains all of the important records from our lives. I feel secure knowing that in an emergency, I can confidently grab the box and have everything we need. I’ve made certain both David and Paul know the content of our container. However, I realized that we’ve stuffed papers and documents into the box carelessly. One day soon, I’ll lug the box out of our closet and do a major reorganization. Perhaps I’ll even make a list of all those important phone numbers and addresses, just as my father had done for us. A metal box will be one more tradition passed through our generations.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

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