Lists. My life has been ruled by lists.
Years ago there was the grocery list that I made up every Thursday when the newspaper arrived with the weeks supermarket specials. There were three markets in town and the menu for the next week depended on these specials. The shopping list was divided by market and what to buy where. Next, the list on the refrigerator was consulted. It showed what we had run out of in the past week. That got added depending on which market had the cheapest item. Thursday night, Max put the children to bed while a friend and I shopped. Our big night out for the week.
Also on the refrigerator was the list of chores for each of the five children for the week. This list got rotated weekly. Dish washing one week, emptying the dishwasher the next, setting the table, dusting, you get the picture. There was another list of chores that could be done for cash.
Late in the summer there were lists of each child and what clothes they would need for school. These lists were usually made up on our yearly tenting trip in the Maine woods. That was after I’d made sure that everything we needed for two weeks was checked off the camping list.
On my desk was the list of members in the baby sitting club, and the list of mothers of children in the present child’s pre-school class. Also of course, a list of emergency telephone numbers.
At tax time, the checkbook register for the previous year was scrutinized closely for the lists of deductions. Charitable contributions, interest, taxes, medical expenses, all listed by category. While I was at it, lists of what I had spent on each child’s clothing for the year as well as mine and my husband’s.
Oh yes, I kept lists of dinner parties. The menu, the shopping list for the dinner, and who attended. I couldn’t serve the same thing twice to the same person.
Holidays were major list times. Although I’d given up sending Christmas cards after the fifth baby in seven years, I kept lists of who sent them to us (a good way to track who really cares). The gift lists needed major thought. Each child got an age appropriate book, an item of clothing, the all important “special” gift, and a stocking stuffed with small toys and fun things. Besides the children, there were gifts for assorted other family members.
The cookie list was a big deal. I baked fifteen kinds of Christmas cookies, always the favorites and every year a few new recipes. Following the cookie list was the list of necessary ingredients and then the list of teachers and neighbors who would receive trays of them.
Another important Christmas list was the list of recipients of the Scandinavian Coffee Cakes that I baked for our close friends each year. The cakes were delivered on Christmas Eve day intended to be part of Christmas morning breakfast. That required a baking orgy the day before Christmas Eve to ensure absolute freshness.
My life has progressed, the lists have changed but there seem to be more every year. There are the lists of every book I’ve read since 1986 and every movie I’ve seen since 1988 and the list of books yet to read and films yet to see. There’s the master packing list for travel and the list of all the people that I send postcards to while I’m away.
In the linen drawer is a list of the sixty-plus white linen napkins that I inherited from my mother and grandmother, all categorized by pattern and number. At the rate I now give dinner parties, it should be years before they need to be ironed again.
There are the lists of the Highlights and Lowlights for the year, traditionally done on New Year’s Day. There are no lists of resolutions, it was too discouraging to look back on them.
My computer has more lists than I can ever use, all those bookmarks lists, each with lists of lists. No more notebooks for me, now to bring myself to part with them. Do I really need to know what I served the Gardners in 1973? (Tostadas de Harinas, Duckling with Almond, Amaretto and Apricot Sauce, Rice, Green beans, Grapefruit marinated with Honey, Cardamom, and Brandy, Chocolate Mousse).
Lest you think that lists control my life, I am known at times to be spontaneous. And, one of my five children is able to function well without lists. How does he do it?
A few years ago I found the ultimate in list making. A book titled List Your Self: Listmaking as the Way to Self-Discovery. It has pages and pages of questions like “list the ways the government lies to you,” and “list all the things you can prove are true,” and “what do you like to do after sex”. Given my ability to make lists on my own, one might wonder if I shouldn’t already have reached Self-Discovery!