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Passport to Christmas past


We opened a Christmas card last week. It seems a little early for that. After all Black Friday and the official holiday shopping blitz is still three days away.

But, no question, this was a Christmas card. You could tell from the choice of stamps and the holly return address sticker with the name of one of those people we only hear from at this time of year.

Carol edged her thumbnail along the flap and pulled out a snow scene with a dark blue sky and twinkling stars. She opened it to Cathy’s best wishes and the news since her last card. Only this was hardly news. The card was nearly a year old.

Before concluding that “snail mail” has gotten awfully slow, consider what happened that morning. We planned to swap cars. I would take Carol’s to work and she would drop mine off at Harvey Davies’ shop just around the corner. But things weren’t coming together, even though we got an early start and there seemed ample time before I had to be at a 7:30 meeting.

It started with the missing passport.

“I’ve looked everywhere,” Carol said, holding up the zippered carrier with a lanyard, designed to be worn around the neck. It was empty.

I went through my list of possible locations, all of which she had already checked. Then I started the usual series of questions, including, “When do you last remember having it and why do you need it now?” and “You’re not planning to go somewhere and forgotten to tell me?”

Those last questions didn’t help matters. It had nothing to do with needing a passport. It had everything to do with knowing where things are. Although she didn’t need the passport and probably wouldn’t for years, this wasn’t something that could wait.

She was on a mission.

I thought it best to let her work things out, especially without any more questions or suggestions. It wasn’t that easy.

I checked out my car, taking a ream of papers and headed for hers. I wasn’t going anywhere. I headed back inside.

“Have you got the keys to the car,” I asked.

“They’re hanging where they’re supposed to be,” she said from upstairs.

I thought, “Why do you think I’m asking?” but stopped before the words slipped out.

“Try my coat pocket,” she said.

I’d already looked.

She interrupted her passport search and, thoroughly aggravated, looked in all the usual key spots. Finally, from the hook on the wall, she presented the sacred spare that I never imagined she would find.

“You know my secret hiding spot!” I declared.

Well, anyway, I had a key and could make my escape.

After the meeting, I gave her a call to get an update. The tone of her “Hello” was enough. I knew she hadn’t found the passport. I made it a short call.

She was still hunting that afternoon, although now her voice was resigned.

“I’ve gone through everything and already filled one trash can.”

“Progress,” I thought. At least the search won’t be for naught.

That evening she had news.

“Found the keys. They were in my jacket all along, but I looked there earlier.”

I dared not bring up the passport. I knew she would tell me if it had been found.

Asking her about her day would be a mistake.

“I see Harvey finished with the car.”

“Yeah,” she answered adding, “I rode my bike to the P.O.”

No mention of the passport. I left it that way. She went about preparing dinner. I lit the candles and pushed aside the morning paper and the day’s mail; another dozen catalogues and to my surprise a letter from CitiBank. They were pushing a credit card. This is a good omen, I reasoned, banks are easing credit and maybe we’re pulling out of the recession.

We ate. No mention of the passport. As we finished, Carol looked over the catalogues. I read the comics that I hadn’t got to that morning, and we talked about Christmas plans. The papers and the catalogues went into a brown paper bag bound for the green recycling bin.

When the table was cleared, Carol motioned to a basket on a dining room chair. It contained mostly junk mail, as well as a few Time and Forbes magazines. I went through it quickly, dropping unopened envelopes into the bag and occasionally turning pages in the magazines.

Suddenly I hit pay dirt – a refund check from my insurance company. Carol couldn’t believe it. I dug deeper, and then I was back to Christmas 2010. I had unearthed all the cards from last year. It was like going through an album, only better. We read the notes, passed around the pictures of children, dogs and family gatherings. Carol retrieved envelopes with addresses from my trash bag, and, of course, opened Cathy’s card that somehow had gone unread last year.

I secretly hoped the passport would surface. It didn’t.

But we had bags of paper to recycle, a “cleansing” before the Christmas onslaught, and a check, too.

Later that night I checked the computer and, as I went through an electronic form of trashing junk mail, I heard Carol from the bedroom.

“Guess what I just found!”

I didn’t dare say “Passport.”

But there she was holding it up, with a small flashlight, and a smile.


“I looked under the bed this time.”

It was hard to imagine how, but it had slipped behind and under our bed.

Finally, peace on Earth or, at least, at home.


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