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December 14 10:34 AM
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Profile of a list maker


April 11, 2018
I found a slip of paper on the kitchen counter. Since Mom was nowhere in sight, I seized the opportunity to investigate. Spy, in other words.

milk

bread

eggs

shadow
shadow
shadow
vanilla

yeast

t.p.

I recognized my mother's penmanship from her signature on my report cards. Mrs. Warren O'Brien. A woman of few written words, she seldom wrote a comment in reply to the school's request.

This must be Mom's grocery shopping list, I thought. Her lower case cursive was small and clear with a break here and there between letters. What on earth did t.p. mean?

Was it candy like M&M's? Once in a blue moon Mom brought a bag home from A&P for doling out Saturday and Sunday night at TV time. My sisters and I loved M&M's with Disney.

I heard Mom walking up the basement steps and decided to stay put and solve the t.p. mystery. She took the pen next to the paper and added more items.

Tide

bleach

starch

"Mom, what's t.p.?

"Why, Iris, that's toilet paper."

Yuck! I'd let my imagination run in the wrong direction.

Mom put the list in her purse. After dinner she drove off to A&P without me. At least I knew what t.p. meant.

In recollection, that inedible domestic necessity deserved more respect than my childhood chagrin and immaturity could pay. In the end, my family could've survived just fine without M&M's. On the other hand, our family of six without toilet paper would've faced a serious sanitation crisis. And who would've borne the blame?

Mom.

Truly, that's the bottom line, the ultimate lesson learned from Mom's abbreviation. Mothers write lists for peace of mind and household harmony. It's their duty to keep cupboards and the fridge stocked with food, and bathrooms supplied with toilet paper, soap and clean towels.

It's odd. Not once did I hear Mom speak t.p. A busy woman, perhaps she reserved it for her grocery list, a matter of saving seconds. I see it as a type of forerunner to today's lol, one of social media's irksome offspring that dilute the strength of the English language and human relationships.

Thus, I'm devoted to lists, and use acronyms sparingly. I say good morning to my daily to-do list, AKA Action Log, and goodnight with the next day numbered according to priority. I shut down my computer and sleep like a baby.

My husband thinks I'm obsessive, yet he's not a planner, the go-to person in an emergency. And he doesn't sleep through the night.

I've heard men say they avoid writing lists. "Why should I when my wife tells me what to do?" is a standard defense.

Since life is too bountiful, beautiful, and brief to

fuss over these inbred

differences, it helps to

keep a mental list to practice the way to peace and joy.

Repentance

Forgiveness

Trust

Love

Patience

Kindness

Dear Reader, I praise pen and paper, that moment when my mother's t.p. taught me the purpose of writing lists.

Email Iris at irisleeu@sbcglobal.net.

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