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It has been weeks since I did anything remotely resembling housework around our home. One plague-like infection after another rendered me useless for most of the past month. While the teens kept the house from falling into a state of slovenly disrepair, there were things they couldn't do.

Like grocery shop, file this year's taxes or sort through and file the mountain of paperwork I've ignored for the better part of the year all the while hoping it would just spontaneously catch fire so as I wouldn't have to deal with it. 

So I spent this past weekend doing all the things I've put off for far too long.

I went grocery shopping. In the city. On a Saturday afternoon. Because I am a masochist who enjoys fighting angry coupon clippers for the last pack of discounted toilet paper and spending hours standing in unmoving grocery lines.

My kids about wept with gratitude as they hauled in grocery bag after grocery bag of food supplies. 

"Ketchup! You bought us ketchup! I thought only rich people had over-processed tomato condiments! It's a miracle!"

"Bananas! We have BANANAS. I forgot bananas even existed!"


Don't even ask me how they reacted when they realized I bought ice cream. Let's just say, my place as the world's greatest mother hall of fame is guaranteed for as long as the frozen treats and fresh produce last.

But I didn't just grocery shop this weekend. No. I cleaned a bathroom, attended a dance recital, folded laundry, helped Nash with his creative writing assignment, taught my daughter how to write her first cover letter so she could apply for a fancy internship thingamajig AND filed a year's worth of paperwork that had been sitting on my kitchen table, mocking me, for weeks now.

I know, I'm totally bragging. You are all awed and inspired by both my exciting life and unparalleled work ethic.

If only I had known just how truly fascinating my life would one day become. Sigh.

This weekend wasn't a complete wash, however.

While I was filing old tax returns and bank statements and medical reports, my kids wandered into my office (and by office I mean my itsy bitsy teeny tiny bedroom closet where I keep our filing cabinet, hidden beneath dusty dresses and a shiny burgundy suit my husband refuses to let me throw out) to ask me a question.

"Holy cow Mom. Enough papers!" Ken exclaimed as she saw the mess I had scattered about me as I ripped apart the filing cabinet.

"Thanks Tips. I hadn't noticed," I huffed as I tossed another stack of old receipts into the pile headed for the paper shredder.

"Wait, what is this?" Ken asked as she bent down to pick up a small rectangular piece of faded paper.

"What? Oh, that? That's an old credit card receipt."

"But why is it so odd looking?" She held it like it was contaminated and examined it as though it contained the answer to cold fusion.

"It's a swiper receipt. It's how they used to do credit cards."


That's when I realized she had zero idea of what I was talking about.

"Ya, back in the day retailers had to make carbon copies of receipts, and there was no such thing as automatic approvals. If you were spending over a certain amount on your credit card the cashier had to pick up a phone, dial the bank and make sure you were authorized to spend that much. Lines were long and shoppers were grumpy. It was about as much fun as getting your teeth cleaned."

"Woah. How did everyone survive like that? It's so inconvenient," she asked EARNESTLY. Like the spoiled, technologically advanced 16-year old she is.

"It's a mystery, kid."

Ken dropped the old credit card receipt and it floated to the ground, another flake of history ready to be shredded with my past. 

I picked up the credit card receipt and looked at the date. 2002. 

I marveled at how much and how little the world has changed in eleven short years. Sure our technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. I can only marvel at what our world will look like in another eleven years.

But as much as that has changed, there will always be parent sitting in his or her closet, trying to organize a mountain of papers while their kid reminds them how obsolete and old they've become.

Thank God she never noticed my very first cell phone I had in the trash pile, buried underneath all the papers. If she saw that old brick, she'd never stop pestering me with questions about what life was like before the wheel was invented.

Reader Comments (10)

Don't tell them about life before ATMs lest their minds explode. ("But--but--I mean-- what if you needed cash on the weekend or at night?")

April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterObservacious

HA! My landlord STILL uses one of these if you pay your rent with your debit card/credit card. I just shove a check through the little pay slot and run (he's weird in general so I avoid all contact and keep to myself.. it's worked for the past 9 years).

April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVickie

I started working at my current job in 1996, and we made those swiper receipt blanks. Past Tense. I don't miss them, but they represent one little milestone in my industry which is well and truly in the past. Also much more benign than the traffic and parking tickets we also make. ;-)

April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGretchen in KS

Actually, from what I hear, in North America, our continued use of magnetic stripe credit card technology has been left in the dust by much of the rest of the world, where they don't bother with such archaic technology. Your kid will someday tell her own offspring, "Why, back when I was a teenager, we would actually slide our credit cards through a machine, then SIGN a piece of paper or a little screen."

April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

Good thing your kids (and mine) aren't going through some of my odds and ends! They might find an old type writer or check writer. My cell phone doesn't text or take pictures! We even have an old reel to reel tape deck and it works.

April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzy

I had a conversation with my daughter that I think everyone has at some stage. At one time when she wanted me to buy something for her and I said I didn't have the money her response was "Well, just go to the bank and get the money from them" - thinking that the bank just gave us money for whatever we needed.

I remember...back in the day...when I worked as a cashier and yes, that was a pain in the hiney. But I seem to recall not many people used them. It was the constant checks and getting their information. But I have FOND (sarcastic font) memories of Christmas time at Target having to call into AmEx to verify cardholders. Ugh.

Did you at least make the visible, tangible connection that the carbon copy stuff she was holding is what the "cc" in the emails is all about?

April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

One night at work when the computers crashed, we had to bust out the old swiper. It was crazy! People looked at us like we had lobsters crawling out of our ears! Like, "Uh...how do I do this?" "Where do I sign?" *lol* Too funny!

April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi Eckl

Lol yes, a Carbon Copy meant totally something else for us!

April 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

LOL. What I always think about is that kids don't know about cars with windows you had to roll down. How will you ever be able to communicate on the side of the road for someone to roll down their window if they don't understand the hand gesture because they've never rolled down a window?!

April 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarta
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