Lost Coins and Boxes

Luke 15:1-10  – The 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, September 15, 2013

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them . . .” ((Luke 15:8)

Raiders_Of_The_Lost_ArkUnlike Jesus’ parable of a woman scouring her house for a lost coin, my mother’s quest for a box didn’t have a happy ending.

In August a year ago, Mom had moved from her home of forty-six years to a retirement community. Many of the contents of her suburban house were donated, itemized for a garage sale or bequeathed to my two sisters and me. She would only bring what she needed to her new residence.

When I arrived for a first visit a couple of weeks after her move, the new apartment had packed and unpacked cardboard boxes everywhere . . . on her floors, piled in closets and also in the dishwasher-sized storage unit in a separate area. Mom had already filled her assigned space with several empty suitcases, Christmas ornaments and more boxes.

After a hug and chitchat and how-was-the-drive-from-Fresno, Mom’s demeanor flattened like air escaping a tire.

“I’ve lost a box.”

A box. There were scores of boxes in Mom’s apartment. It was a condensed version of the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones’ wooden box was stored in a government warehouse with a zillion other similar containers.

“Which box, Mom?”

“It’s the one with a thousand dollars in it.”

Ah. That box.

Mom and Dad were born in the first decades of the twentieth-century. That generation survived the interminable “Great Depression” and then saved the world from the tyranny of dictators. Though I didn’t know when I was a kid, as an adult—and privy to a few of my parents’ “secrets”—I’d learned they kept cash hidden in the house. The financial woes of 1930s demonstrated that a bank might abruptly close its doors. World War II revealed that normalcy could shift to panic and only fools wouldn’t prepare for the proverbial “rainy day.” Of course they hoarded a stash of cash.

“I think I put the box in the storage unit,” she said.

We looked. Indeed, over the next hours, we investigated the smallish storage space multiple times. We opened and closed and opened every carton of any size in her apartment. It didn’t matter if a box had been labeled Photo Albums or Kitchen Stuff, we thoroughly searched the apartment’s nooks, crannies and, like Jesus’ woman with the lost coin, lighted a lamp to illuminate the darkest reaches of rooms and corners.

It wasn’t World War II, but Mom’s normalcy had shifted to panic. Continue reading →