“That Story Lady”

Angela Scott, Author – Storyteller – Ventriloquist

Time Capsule in a Tin Can

February 25, 2009

In the middle of a 30 second cell phone conversation, I heard a beep and then silence. The battery died, I guess.

“Only a year ago, I paid 99 cents for this cell phone, new. I guess things made today just aren’t made like they used to be,” I thought. My sarcasm did not comfort me.

On my way home, I saw the battery store and checked on a replacement battery. The sales associate listened attentively even though it was only minutes before the close of posted business hours. “Only $37.95 for a new battery,” he said.

He must have seen the question on my mind because he began reporting an abbreviated but detailed summary about the steps to replace the dying battery. “This type of battery will be a special order. Besides, our orders have already been placed this week. The anticipated delivery date is approximately two weeks,” he said. My response, “Oh,” ended our conversation.

When I arrived home, I began an excavation of the console inside my car. I needed the automobile adapter for the cell phone. I needed a power source, in case of an emergency.

Just a few years ago, I experienced a similar situation. Returning to Duke Hospital for extensive tests on my husband’s newly transplanted heart, the only cell phone we owned failed to work because the battery died. That memory did not comfort me.

Beneath eleven CD’s inside the console, I found a straw and a silver tin, rectangular in shape with a heart and cross design on the lid. “What’s that?” I asked myself.

As the driver of the car 99% of the time, I knew I had buried the unlikely and unplanned version of a time capsule in a tin can in my car. Neither did I remember what was in the tin nor did I remember why I placed it in the car.

Eager to find out what I had forgotten I had hidden, I sat on the floor beside the coffee table and lifted the lid off of the box.

Inside the container, I found a wooden toothpick holder, two Bible verses I had clipped from a newspaper, one miniature mechanical pencil, a few antacid tablets and one of Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite quotes, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

I found two more newspaper clippings, a hand carved box which could only be opened with precise directions of a puzzle. The box was less then two inches in height and width. A miniature red heart was painted on one side of the box and the palm of a hand was drawn on the opposite side. I also found a miniature zip-lock bag containing tiny gifts which symbolized courage, strength and hope; things I had collected from friends and travels.

The first newspaper clipping told the story about a $150 gas card that Bald Head Island was offering for visitors. However, there was no year listed in the article so I’m certain that article was at least a year old.

Another newspaper clipping told the story about two local professors who had recently been awarded with the highest civilian honor bestowed by the North Carolina Governor: the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award. That article did not list a date but it did include the state toast:

“Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine,
The summer land where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,
Here’s to ‘down home,’ the Old North State!”

I felt as if I had discovered a time capsule which I had buried in my car without premeditation. Each item evoked memories far beyond face value of each individual item.

A few people might say the intrinsic value of my memories is little more than a miniature can of trash. However, the epiphany I experienced as I inventoried my buried treasure was worth more than a pound of rare gemstones.

I confess this recent discovery of tiny memories led me on a path I had traveled before but had forgotten. Memories flooded my mind. “What does all of this mean?” I asked.

I realized the tin container held glimpses of previous opportunities in life, a miniature blueprint.

Again I asked myself, “Why did I bury these items? Why did I stop where and when I did?”

Waiting patiently for a response, I remembered why. My mom had a heart attack on July 25th last year. I now remember the urgency I felt to develop a new course of action in my life after the unexpected hospital emergency.

Dr. David Campbell said it best in his book entitled, “If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably End up Somewhere Else,” because I found myself in quite a different place than I had planned. A quote in Dr. Campbell’s book stated, “If you want something to happen, you have to make a space for it.”

Mom’s heart attack stopped me in my tracks, but the severity of her situation encouraged me to consciously make a space for many things I wanted to happen. President Roosevelt was right, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” It’s never too early to begin looking for your own time capsule in a tin can.


Angela Scott


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