I’ve always had a thing for mysteries. Just toss me a few hidden clues, throw in a secret passageway, and finish it off with a cryptic message and I’m hooked. Can I figure it out before the author divulges everything in the final chapter? This fondness for thrillers began when I was a child. After a checkup at the dentist, Mom would treat us to a trip to the bookstore, where I made a beeline for the Trixie Belden series. There were so many to choose from ~ The Secret of the Mansion, The Mysterious Code, The Mystery off Glen Road. I plunked down my money and filled up my bookshelf with as many as possible.
Recently, I began the gargantuan task of cleaning out my Father’s things in the basement, which can be depressing. But when I picked through some papers in his desk, I remembered one of my childhood mysteries ~ From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
And instead of looking at this unwelcome task as an unraveling of my Father’s life, I chose to think like the 10-year-old version of me. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mr. Jack E. Vineyard. I am reading through pages of handwritten notes, financial papers and personal correspondence and I will unearth everything of importance to put the pieces of my Father’s life together. What did I find?
Savings account booklets for my sisters and me, so we could learn the value of saving money.
A receipt dated 1967 for a Singer sewing machine Mom used for decades to sew our clothes.
Premium payments made to Modern Woodmen of America.
A 1967 calendar with handwritten expenses: Car wash .61 cents; Haircut $2; Fishing Line $1.54; McDonald hamburger & coke .76 cents; Milk .65 cents.
A handwritten tally of how many packs of cigarettes my parents consumed before they decided to quit.
A contract to sell their Cocoa, Florida house after President Johnson moved NASA operations from Florida to his home state of Texas causing hundreds of people, including my Father, to lose their jobs at the Kennedy Space Center.
Handwritten letters from two older men who used to mentor my Dad.
A tuition check my parents sacrificially wrote to keep their daughters in a Christian school.
A $5 dog license for our Scottie terrier Pepper.
A handbook of electronic symbols.
Sunday School lesson plans and teaching materials for children.
Father’s Day cards, credit union papers, church bulletins and furniture receipts.
There really was no mystery to my Father. He was an engineer who saved money and taught his kids to do the same. He worked at the Kennedy Space Center during America’s great Space Race and spoke electronics as his first language. He always took us to church and made great sacrifices so we could attend a Christian school. He was a hard worker and made sure we lived within our means. He knew the importance of having older men speak into his life so he could be a better husband and father. He was a giver, supporting his church and missionaries to spread the Gospel. He loved working with wood and tinkering with his tools. He loved God and he loved his family.
This has made me wonder ~ if I somehow vanished from the earth, what would all the stuff I leave behind say about who I am as a person? What would my check ledger reveal? My pictures? My journal?
What about you? If you suddenly disappeared, what would your belongings say about you? Could they tell who you loved? Could they tell what is most important to you? If they put all the pieces together, what would they see?
If they’re really close to you, then who you are shouldn’t be a mystery to them.