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I’ve recently been on a hunting expedition looking for my birth certificate.
I’ve decided that since I don’t drive anymore I probably should have a valid state ID card just in case I ever want to cross the border - not that I’m planning such a trip anytime soon.
I can’t for the life of me remember where I stashed the certificate, not having had the occasion for using it in ages. I have all sorts of documents filed in various places and I’ve spent a lot of time going through every nook and cranny where I might have put it I thought I had hit pay dirt when I found a manila envelope marked, “Birth Certificates”, only to discover that inside were certificates for every other family member, but not mine;
Try as I will, I can’t think why I’m not included. I know I’ve had a copy of the thing for years and I don’t think I threw it out not even in a fit of despair when I turned forty. I could send away for another copy if I were sure where I was born. Unfortunately, every family member who could fill in the gap has died and my younger brother wouldn’t be any more sure than I.
I know the state but am not sure of the town. This is what comes of having lived in so many places during one’s lifetime. My earliest sure recollection of residence starts at school age but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t where I was born. Except for getting a card I have no reason to have a birth certificate, after all, I don’t have any kind of certificate pertaining to any other event in my life.
Most people have things like diplomas or marriage certificates or even divorce papers. I don’t, even after having earned several examples of all of the above. I can’t even remember where or when I got rid of all of them. This is reflective of my life style which has been, “Oh well, that’s over, what’s next?”
This is in direct contrast to other memorabilia I have saved, much of which I came across in my hunt. I have saved reams of my kids’ school work starting in kindergarten. Whenever I find things during my all too frequent searches for misplaced items I have given stuff to my child’s child. Hopefully some will be saved for future family archives.
This time my searching has been in places other than school storage. Among my files I’ve found lots of newspaper stories, mostly profiles on interesting people and places, written by me during my days of being totally involved in working at various papers in the area. It’s always good to look back and remember. This seems to be the only phase of my life on which I have not closed the door.
Among the clutter in a chest where I thought I might have put important papers, I found lots of maps. Some of them are in nice folios with many insets. There’s one collection of maps of the 50 states with every town in it clearly marked, plus every road and highway, even all the rivers running through the place. The index is huge and includes every town’s name, population and place on the map.
I also have several large National Geographic maps of all the continents with capitol cities highlighted. The only place that would not be an accurate reference would be Africa which has changed names many times since the map was printed. To make up for this, I have a placemat of modern day, up to date Africa. Over the years whenever the wanderlust has over come me I’ve checked out a map which is a great way to armchair travel. When the kids were little I used large, beautiful maps of the world as wall decorations to enhance their global sense and their place in it.
The maps slowed me down. I’ve also found some other things which I intend to pursue before continuing to look for the elusive birth certificate. One is my beloved copies of civil war letters written by a Lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War. They were written to the young woman he loved and are full of details of the battles he fought, as well as his falling in love with her during leave times and, in one priceless letter, his proposal of marriage, which she accepted. Sadly, when the war was over, just before he arrived home for their wedding, she died of pneumonia. Unfortunately, I have no copies of her letters to him. I have read his letters many times and intend to read them again as soon as possible.
As I wrote this column I thought of one other place where my certificate might be. As soon as I get some renewed energy I may go look for it.
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