Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Alas, Poor Billfold...

Twenty-five years ago— August 1981— I got a new leather billfold. I was just starting out in seminary. I've worn that billfold in my hip pocket purner every day for a quarter century. It's become shaped and worn. More and more worn in recent years. It's accumulated all sorts of cards and papers and items, things that just pile up, and I couldn't bring myself to weed them out, or at least somehow I never got around to it.

Then, a week or two ago, my old billfold gave way. Some conjunction of leather and fabric deep inside gave out, and suddenly any attempt to fetch a dollar bill made the billfold billow out like an unfolding accordion.

So, time for a new billfold. I was down in Prairie du Chien yesterday, on my day off. Stopped off at Cabela's. And got a new leather billfold, this one of deerskin.

Got home, and was faced with the task of transfering things from the old billfold to the new one. Sorted through all sorts of stuff. Some of it could be discarded, years after the fact. Some of it... well, there are items I decided to keep, for no reason I could defend in a hardboiled court of law.

Red Cross blood donor card, type A positive. Membership card, Republican Party of Wisconsin, still listing my old boyhood home town as my address. Ancient nonpictorial Wisconsin driver's license, 1984. A few long-outdated business cards. These, I decided, could go.

Obvious keepers: current Iowa driver's license. Credit card. AARP membership card. Blue Cross/Blue Shield card. Car insurance card. Iowa voter registration card. Social Security card, which I never acquired until I was 18, back when Nixon was still in the White House.

Then there were the items I kept for reasons unrelated to utility. I mean I just couldn't bear to part with them... Duke University student ID card, on which a younger version of me appears, with a dark beard untinged with grey. University of Wisconsin-Madison student ID card, on which a much younger version of me appears, with long hair, clean shaven, wearing an olive drab shirt from Army Surplus.

Business card of a close friend who died from cancer in 1995. "Volcano Flights, Trout Lake, WA," fellow who took me on a flight in a single-engine plane over Mt. St. Helens in 1984. National Geographic Society, life membership card. Card of the Stated Clerk of Blackhawk Presbytery, addressed on the back to John Knox Presbytery: "Please ordain Paul on our behalf (scribbled signature) Pres of Blackhawk 6/18/85."

Paycheck stub and office key deposit receipt from back when I was a teaching assistant in math at the UW-Madison. And, frizzled and worn, my draft registration card, "classified 1H," dated June 1974.

I've worn these items in my hip pocket almost every day now, some of them for 25 years, some of them for 30 years and more. You don't easily part with such memorabilia when you've worn it that close to you daily for so many years. Not even when, after a quarter century, you change over to a new billfold.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh wow. It's amazing what we keep with us, isn't it?

What a fabulous time capsule of sorts you got to explore!

Saturday, December 16, 2006 9:19:00 AM  

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