The Mysterious Adventures a 26-Year-Old Wallet

by Katy on August 21, 2011 · 19 comments

The following is a reprint from a previously published post. Enjoy!

Like bumper stickers on the back of a car, one can usually tell a fair amount about a person by the possessions they choose to carry around.  High heeled shoes and a tall venti latté, or Birkenstocks and a mason jar of yerba maté? Whether we like to admit it or not, we are at least somewhat defined by our possessions.

I recently had a time capsule of my fifteen-year-old self enter back into my life in the form of a lost wallet. This 26-year-old relic arrived at my father’s house on Christmas Eve and was handed to me as a gift.

The wallet included an anonymous letter, written in a handwriting not usually found with those under the age of seventy, which read:

Dear Mr. Wolk:

I believe this wallet belongs to your daughter Katherine Wolk-Stanley — I found it on the Burnside Bridge many, many years ago. I recently found it in a drawer that I was cleaning — I had always meant to return it but had neglected to send it to you. I apologize to your daughter. Please see that she receives this —

Thank you

I have no memory whatsoever of losing my wallet in 1983, and I especially don’t remember having one stolen, but the evidence outweighs my shoddy memory.

But one thing is clear, 15-year-old Katy is a lot different than 42-year-old Katy.

Let’s start with the wallet itself, which is made from a traditional Guatemalan huipil. The signature, nee stereotypical wallet of hippies worldwide. This is not a wallet I would carry anymore, and I’m surprised I had one to begin with.

The wallet contained:

  • One tenth grade student ID
  • Two house keys, one of which was bent by the psychic Uri Geller, but still continues to function.
  • A magazine photo of a girl looking off in the distance and superimposed with her grinning wildly at the camera. Was this some kind of inspiration to me in 1983?!
  • A school picture of my sister’s friend Amanda.
  • Two fortunes from Chinese fortune cookies. They read:
  • “You will do to expand your business”
  • “Genius does what it must, and talent does what it can.”
  • A slip of paper that reads, “Deposito por Envases, ¢1200 Montelimar.” (I spent the summer of 1983 in Costa Rica on an exchange program.)
  • A note on 3 X 5 card that reads, “Please excuse Katy Wolk-Stanley for missing school on Friday — she was with her sister who had just graduated from High School — Tony Wolk.”
  • A calling card from “Elaine Lustig G.”
  • My mother’s business card from the Oregon Journal as an “Entertainment Writer.”
  • Two youth membership cards from The Jewish Community Center.
  • A receipt from the “Banco Nacional de Costa Rica.”
  • Two receipts for traveler’s checks.
  • Two bus passes for March and May of 1983. (What, no April?)
  • A credit union withdrawal voucher for $30.
  • A Multnomah County Library card with an expiration date of September 7, 1977.
  • One Canadian 1979 quarter  and a 1995 nickel.
  • A 2003 five dollar bill and a 2006 one dollar bill.

This wallet was a criminal’s dream. Not only did it contain my father’s address, but it also held still-working keys to his house. It also had the number of a credit union account that I used up until a few years ago.

I don’t believe for a minute that this wallet was “found on the Burnside Bridge” and then put aside for 26 years. My theory is that someone either stole it and is now making amends, (hence the post 1983 cash) or that someone found a stash of wallets from a son or grandson and is trying to reunite them with their original owners.

Despite the creepiness of having a wallet anonymously mailed to me, I actually like the snapshot of my 15-year-old self. A girl who traveled, exchanged currency, visited the J.C.C. and still got her dad to write excuses for school absences. (Although I apparently didn’t turn them in!) I even enjoy the bizarrely flat affect of my school I.D. and especially am enjoying reuniting with my childhood library card.

My 42-year-old lady wallet is much more serious, filled with work related licenses, a debit card, credit cards, gift cards and such. It may not have been an official time capsule, but it’s awakening the fifteen-year-old-girl inside of me.

Okay readers, here’s a task for you. I want you to decide how I should spend this $6.05 windfall. Should I tuck it away in savings, use it for debt reduction or spend it on something fun and frivolous? Please share your suggestions in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Agnes August 22, 2011 at 1:22 am

I loved this post, Katy. What a weird event! You really should spend the $6.05 on something your 15 year old self would have appreciated. A magazine with further ‘inspirational’ images, perhaps? A box of fortune cookies?


Rubymay1029 August 22, 2011 at 3:32 am

I think you should do with it what your 15-year-old self would have done. Mine would have spent it on a new 8-track tape, probably of Wham or The Village People. XD


Rowena August 22, 2011 at 4:13 am

Genius does what it must. Sigh. Spend $6 on debt reduction. Throw the rest in a wishing well.


Kimberly August 22, 2011 at 4:38 am

I’m not usually a proponent of lottery tickets, but I think I’d use at least one dollar to buy one. I mean, getting your lost/stolen wallet back after 18 years? That’s definitely the universe smiling on you…maybe you’d win millions and could pay off all your debts?


ellen August 22, 2011 at 5:13 am

found money…. use it something that you would enjoy…


Jude August 22, 2011 at 11:37 am



Teresa August 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I agree – spend it on something fun. Maybe something at goodwill so every time you look at it you will be reminded of the wallet time capsule. Cheers!


Pollyanna August 22, 2011 at 5:34 am

What a mystery! I agree with Kimberly — buy a lottery ticket (use #s from the serial # of the bill)!


Juhli August 22, 2011 at 5:44 am

What would your 15 year old self have spent it on? Do you still enjoy any of that? Have fun with it – as much as you can with that small amount!


Susan August 22, 2011 at 6:35 am

I agree with Juhli. Find something your 15-your old self would buy and have fun.


Mindy August 22, 2011 at 7:27 am

I’m a weird stasher of money. Depending on where it came from, it goes toward different things. I would totally put the money back in the wallet and keep it as-is in a drawer somewhere with the letter. Your 70-year-old self may get an even bigger kick out of going through the contents. :o)


Jill August 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Ice cream! and share the lesson with your kids!


Rachel Gillespie August 22, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Katy! I’m writing a story in which a 50 year old woman wakes up in her 15 year old body. Done to death, I know, but I’m hoping to add some twists. Anyway, I loved this post of yours because, firstly, it’s a cool thing to happen and, secondly, it’s given me some insight into what this “woman” in my story may find in her 15 year old wallet. Quite timely! 🙂


Practical Parsimony August 22, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Hmmm, I always assumed Wolk-Stanley was your married name. I clearly remember a $20 bill being stolen from my purse in 1960 by a girlfriend. It made a great impression on me. I think you did lose it. Otherwise, the trauma of a theft would have stayed with you. Maybe the person who found it hit hard times, used the money and replaced it to send to you. If it were son or grandson (how about daughter or granddaughter?) and the person found the wallet, maybe he was sure you knew exactly how much money you lost.

Of course, $20 in 1960 is much more than $6.05 in 1983 and easier to agonize over. Buy something fun.


jana August 23, 2011 at 4:46 am

I agree with all the others who said to spend it on something that 15 year old Katy would have enjoyed. Or spend it on snacks to watch during Mad Men.


jana August 23, 2011 at 4:47 am

That should have read “snacks to eat while watching Mad Men”. Oy.


Megg August 23, 2011 at 6:23 am

That is really creepy…

I think you should treat yourself to a latte the next time you’re out and about, running errands!


sandra j August 23, 2011 at 11:44 am

How fun! Thanks for sharing. If you hadn’t “lost” the wallet – I bet you would not have any of these item still around. Must be neat to see something from your teen years again.


Jo August 24, 2011 at 8:03 pm

I would keep the money in the wallet and the wallet in a drawer. It’s really quite a story, and the dates on the money are a part of it. Do you think you will ever find out who sent it?


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