I recently went on vacation out of the country. As if the stress of wrapping up work, packing, losing 15 pounds and organizing international paperwork wasn’t bad enough, I found panic and anxiety creeping in as the days ticked off to departure.
It was unavoidable: God Forbid mode was setting in.
Now, I’m not typically a person concerned with planes nosediving into the ocean. Quite the contrary. Despite being a fangirl of Lost I keep my faith firmly rooted in engineering and science and pilots. I choose fascination over fear when it comes to air travel (window seats always!) and feel flying generally works out for the majority of us. So it definitely wasn’t that. But reality and what ifs loomed heavy in my racing mind: being in a foreign land – with the time difference a half day ahead in the future from any point – I started to worry. I’ve seen many a Dateline. I suppose a lot could happen. Damn you, Keith Morrison.
I realized quite terrifyingly that – God forbid – if anything ever happened to my husband and me my adult kids would have zero idea about anything. I mean absolutely nothing. Face it. Their generation has lived primarily paper-free, with all their immediate needs and necessities accessible right in their pockets. They’ve barely touched paper money. The idea of a master file of, I don’t know, important documents, might likely be incomprehensible to them.
I needed to get my act together before that passport got stamped.
I shudder at the memory of cleaning out my mother’s house when she was dying. There was stuff everywhere. Papers tucked into nightstands; stacks of mail bound by brittle rubber bands in shoeboxes piled high in the closet; important deeds sprinkled in with toaster oven instructions and my grandfather’s army discharge papers. If her bedroom was her hidden-in-plain-sight salt mine, her filing cabinet was a Narnia wardrobe to decades gone by. Day after day of shredding every phone bill from 1991 and squinting to decipher handwritten notes and faded ink left me adamant: never would my children ever have to go through this nightmare.
So I started off hot. As soon as I returned home from her funeral I went through my own files and tossed out all the junk and nonsense. I have four kids; there was a lot of nonsense. I managed to collect everything of importance into one lone box, hauled my own filing cabinet to the dump and felt pretty good. Then I forgot all about it.
As my trip neared, it dawned on me that none of my kids knew this box existed, let alone that there might be fairly crucial things to glean from its contents. Good grief, they didn’t even know my trusty hiding spot for the spare house key. Ohmygod, I panicked, we might be fkkkkked. I sat down and started frantically typing out account numbers and insurance policies and contacts and listings of bills on autopay and – right??? Who’s kicking herself for never having done this?
I debated who to send my missive, aptly titled, Important Information. Should it be my eldest son? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t paid his parking tickets from three years ago. He might be a fugitive. He was out. My daughter? She still calls her dad when the check engine light comes on and she’s across the country. Let me think about that one. The youngest? He’s finishing college so is technically the only one still living home … but he’s literally in the emergency room getting stitched up from stupidity every few months so that’s a hard no. Forget the middle son. I think he still keeps his social security number written on a tiny scrap of paper in his wallet.
My daughter won the short straw and let me be clear, she was not amused. She reacted to the email immediately.
Why are you sending me this? was her curt response.
Just in case, I replied, adding in a fingers-crossed emoji.
I felt better. My husband asked if I’d also sent any of them our flight information. Bless his heart. As if any would ever track our departure or even have a clue what day we’d return. I finished my doomsday to-do list by writing farewell love texts to all my loved ones, took a deep breath and went far, far away with a little peace of mind.
Spoiler alert, we returned home safe and sound. I have every bit of confidence my daughter never even glanced at the contents of the hot potato email but that’s okay. It was hastily thrown together and (rubs hands together) I know I can make it better.
No doubt my kids will be super excited at the idea of more paper.
Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and has been featured in Huff Post. She appeared in the Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone” presenting her popular essay The Thinking Girl’s Thong and her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series. That said, she still places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements (next would be as the $100,000 winner on that home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore). A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook & @Eyerollingmom on Instagram. Her collection of essays, A Momoir, can be found here (agent interest ALWAYS WELCOME!)