Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

To Do: Write Memoirs

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If I ever write my autobiography, remind me to include in my reference materials all the old shopping and to-do lists we have lying around.

It’s amazing what one can divine about history from just a list of items to purchase or accomplish. The one that was lying on the kitchen counter, for example, must be from during the summer, because it has an item, “fix daughter’s bladder.” Without that item checked off, I would never recall in such vivid, aromatic detail all the times we had to clean sudden puddles around the house all through July, August and September. It being summer then, that also meant that the clothes thus soiled, if she timed it right, would end up sitting in the laundry room for up to three days at a time before finding their way into a wash, benefiting mightily from the warm weather’s tendency to augment pungent experiences.

Another list item calls for me to get a haircut. By itself, this item indicates nothing, since I tend to go up to three months without a (professional) trim; once I notice I’m getting a little bushy behind the ears it goes on the to-do list, but there on the list it remains until I can find time to make the arduous journey on foot all the way to the barber, who so cruelly placed his establishment a full eleven-minute mosey from our front door (in the meantime, I trim some bits myself when they irritate my ears too much; this often results in comically exposed bald spots and an uneven coif, the shame of which contributes to continued delay, for fear of the barber’s reaction. I’m so damn secure). The number of times my haircut has appeared on the task list might not be particularly high, but that’s because the same task list can last half a year, and we just circle previously checked items to indicate their renewed relevance. So by itself, this item tells me nothing about the so-called life in progress around the list, or when it had relevance.

But other items on the same list complete the picture: get carpenter estimate on rotating bar. We have a wooden bar that we thought might serve well as a casual eating spot for two or three people. It juts out into the space separating the kitchen from the dining room, but that space is so crowded that it’s a good thing we never followed through by buying bar stools. It’s enough of a challenge to get by when someone’s standing in front of the refrigerator; forget about when the fridge is open. And the bar, which serves well as a surface for rolling out pie crust dough, attracts all the detritus and not-quite-relevant-yet-but-too-important-to-put-away-yet mail, random broken pieces and – surprise, surprise – lists, which occasionally fall on the floor and get trampled, wrinkled or chewed by household members who haven’t yet reached the age at which a clear distinction exists between “allowed to touch” and “not allowed to touch” (that would be everyone but Mrs. Thag, who never, ever does anything even remotely inappropriate. At least not in public).

So we want to rotate the bar ninety degrees, putting it along and against the wall between the pantry and breakfront, but as my do-it-yourself home improvement skills aren’t quite as good as my vaunted barber skills, we started considering getting estimates about a year ago. We’ve gotten one so far, and I have no idea what it was, or who gave it, or even when.

Shopping lists are a similar story – milk, bread and a few other items appear, get eliminated and reappear with such frequency that I wonder why we bother crossing them out at all (about ten years ago, we had begun a shopping list, with one item on it – eggs – and posted it on the fridge with a magnet until more groceries volunteered to get used up, and a friend commented how, uh, wise it was for us to have a separate list for each item: “Honey, have you seen our eggs list?”). But the evolution of our shopping lists bespeaks an evolution in sensibilities: we now bite the bullet and buy the relatively expensive Cheerios and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, even though they still appear on a separate, older, When We’re Rich list.

If you happen to feel like getting down and dirty with a home improvement project, come on over with your tools. We can’t afford to pay much, but we’ll bake you a nice chicken dinner. As soon as we get someone to fix the cord of the oven, which seems to have melted. Honey, have you seen our oven list?

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Written by Thag

November 6, 2010 at 8:32 pm

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