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Little Bits of Paper

Little Bits of Paper

My daughter makes lists. I find them everywhere – lists of books,  friends, dance moves; lists of songs, and hypoallergenic dogs. She makes schedules – for parties, for fund raising; she makes duct-tape pockets for various collections; and calendars – for mermaid sightings or a holiday countdown. Pretty soon it will be lists of boys names; or summer camps; pockets for tampons, and calendars for music concerts.

At some point, I became the keeper of lists. I can’t bring myself to throw them out, even though they are often discarded by Savannah, my typically distractible ten-year-old. They show me a little of what she values, and where she is going. I fish them from behind furniture or between the couch cushions, read them when she’s not looking, and stow them. It goes like this:

“Mom!!!!!! Have you seen my Selena Gomez song list? I really need it!” 

“It’s in the second draw in the arts and crafts file cabinet, under your stretching schedule.” She is momentarily besotted with me.


Most would consider unfinished lists  – well, garbage, and counsel the child in time management and desk-tidying skills. So why do I enable this kind of flibberti-ness? Because: I clearly dropped that apple from the tree of my own list-making days.

My father would call my childhood lists and schedules my ‘little bits of paper’. They spread like a virus throughout our house. But in some eccentric way, these scribbles on scrap paper kept my life structured. In the final hour of a long-term plan, they would come to the top of my stack of papers like a Vegas card trick, paving the way forward in a way that was mystical to me.

My first backpacking trip through Europe was planned on my little bits of paper. I wrote lists of destinations and aspirations on whatever paper I could find, and quickly misplaced them. It was like releasing them into the cosmos where they were left on their own to conjure up my dreams. They would eventually show up (thanks to my infuriated parents), patting me on the back for completing only the most necessary tasks.

In college, my roommate and I made wedding invitation lists. We made them and edited them, read them out loud and made them all over again. Neither of us had a big wedding, but I think of those lists as part of our respective journeys down the aisle.

Somewhere around my postpartum werewolf period, I stopped making lists. Instead, I email myself under the subject “Things To Do”, and quickly forget each email.

Do I miss finding a corner of an envelope filled with my plans, or a crumpled napkins covered in bullet points?

For sure.

But there’s only enough room in our house for one treasure hunt at a time.


Here’s one of my favorite treasures:

I do something, don't I?

I do something, don’t I?

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