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Citizen Voices

History of a Private Life

Every once in a while, you still see them. The person in front of you in the grocery line who waits until the cashier has finished ringing up their order. THEN they start to rummage through their purse looking for... their checkbook.

Then a second search for a pen, and finally they start to write. Eventually they’ll pass it to the cashier who hands them their receipt. But wait… they're not done yet. Now they have to enter the amount in their ledger and return the checkbook to their purse or back pocket. Finally gathering up their belongings, they give way to the rest of us, impatiently clutching debit/credit cards at the ready, hoping to make up for all the lost time.

It’s hard to remember that it wasn’t so long ago that everyone wrote checks or paid cash for nearly everything. After my mother passed away, I spent the next months closing her estate and clearing out my parent’s home. I was astounded to find that my mother had kept every one of her canceled checks, in order, running from the early 1950’s until April 2003, the week before she died. They were in exact numerical order and perfectly notated as to what each check was for. It was in fact, a diary of her life. And in many ways it was also a chronicle of my family’s daily life for nearly five decades.


My father, a Navy pilot, was almost always overseas, and we lived on what the Navy called a monthly “allotment”, which was, in those days, a rather modest amount of money. Those cancelled checks told me how she often bought our school clothes on “layaway”, which meant one could make payments over several months, obtaining the items only after the final payment. 

March 30, 2008 at 02:31 AM
or maybe some day a future generation of Americans will be able to read and ponder their way through information secretly gathered about them by Uncle Sam and his Patriot Act.

Davesnot from Oceanside
March 30, 2008 at 04:16 AM
He won't be called Uncle Sam anymore.. they'll call him Big Brother.