Memory List at 47

Since last week’s post about Malcolm Gladwell, I’ve been thinking of ways to remind myself everyone and everything has a story to tell. One terrific idea comes from Jane at youonlyhavetogetthrutoday: write a Memory List. When I first read Jane’s list, I was struck by how many of her memories resonated with my own–the Weekly Reader, Saturday morning cartoons, and how the smell of tobacco, especially pipe tobacco, lingers fondly rather than disgustingly.

I decided to focus mostly on early and middle childhood memories, choosing 47 for the number of items because that is my new age as of last week. ­čÖé Try making your own Memory List to use as writing prompts for those days when nothing seems interesting, or just as a way to remember.

Without further ado, in no particular order and written without too much thought or editing…

Memory List at 47

  1. Metal Slinkys
  2. Getting a Jane West doll (see video below) and a toy typewriter for Christmas
  3. Rows and rows of neatly trimmed, fragrant white and purple lilacs leading to my grandparents’ house
  4. Packing hoes in the car or pick-up and going with Grandpa to dig out cactus plants in the field
  5. With same Grandpa, counting newborn calves in the spring…
  6. and playing canasta…
  7. and the smell of Absorbine Jr. when I sat on his lap
  8. The difference between the smells of my two grandmothers’ kitchens–one full of baked bread and gravy, the other of┬áunnameable┬áspices and ripe fruit
  9. Getting a postcard from Romper Room‘s Miss Nancy
  10. Captain Kangaroo (see video below)
  11. Putting on talent shows with my maternal cousins
  12. Phonics workbooks in different colors titled with letters of the alphabet
  13. Watching syndicated Star Trek episodes every day after school
  14. My mother’s putting the chairs on the table and shooing us out of the house to mop every week
  15. Getting used to hard contact lenses
  16. The bicentennial summer and drought of 1976
  17. The beginning of the year 1970
  18. Hearing the news of Nixon’s resignation as I sat in a dentist’s chair
  19. My “city” cousins visiting from Gillette, Wyoming
  20. The smell of newly mown alfalfa
  21. The threat of prairie fires
  22. Being terrified by the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz
  23. Watching The Carol Burnett Show and laughing uncontrollably, especially at the “Went With the Wind” sketch (see video below)
  24. Crying myself to sleep each year when school ended in the spring
  25. Walking 1 1/2 miles to the mailbox
  26. The sweet taste of mulberries and the stain they left on my fingers
  27. My protestant mother’s Lenten meals of canned shrimp cocktails
  28. Going to both Lutheran and Catholic churches on Sundays
  29. The constant whir of a sewing machine
  30. 4H
  31. Big Chief notebooks and fat pencils
  32. Being fascinated by a neighbor girl who said swore
  33. The birth of my youngest brother when I was 9
  34. Accidentally knocking a pail of eggs down my grandmother’s cellar stairs
  35. Hiding in the hallway after bedtime to get a glimpse of All in the Family
  36. Asking my mother what “menopause” meant after seeing one of the All in the Family episodes, and, when she wouldn’t tell me, looking it up in the dictionary
  37. Being given a thin church pamphlet from my mother as a way to explain “female concerns”
  38. Getting bored with my room and changing the furniture every few weeks
  39. The BookMobile’s weekly visit to our grade school
  40. The arrival of our 1969 World Book Encyclopedia and Child Craft set (I nearly wore out Child Craft vol. 9)
  41. When Dad let go of the back of my bicycle for the first time
  42. Waiting impatiently for the monthly Hardy Boys book to arrive
  43. Saving Bazooka wrappers
  44. Getting a shag haircut
  45. Eating crab apples off the tree
  46. The rough tongue of young calves as I let them suck two of my fingers, and the calf slobber left on my fingers when I removed them
  47. Brushing down just-ridden horses

Jane West doll commercial:


Captain Kangaroo:


┬áCarol Burnett: “Went With the Wind” (the “curtain dress,” which was designed by Bob Mackie, is in the Smithsonian–how cool is that?!):


8 thoughts on “Memory List at 47

  1. 1. Happy, happy birthday, Lisa!
    2 You didn’t grow up a city kid.
    3. I remember the first time my Dad let go of the bike too, and rearranging my bedroom furniture.
    4. While you were in the dentist’s chair I was watching Nixon resign on TV in California.
    5.4-H! I raised Seeing Eye Puppies.

    One difference…I don’t think I ever cried myself to sleep on the last day of school, but I’ll bet our home wasn’t as rural as yours. (Just a guess.)

    Thanks for the shout out!

  2. Happy belated Birthday, Lisa! And what a wonderful list!
    I remember having a toy typewriter for a while – it was blue with yellow keys. And also when my dad let go of my bike for the first time. He kept running by my side even though he was sick at the time. ­čÖé

  3. Happy belated birthday! I love this idea, what a great idea. Some of these are familiar. I loved the Wizard of Oz, but was scared to death of those monkeys! Star trek, Captain Kangaroo..oh how very fun. Memories. Thank you for sharing. I may just have to do this.

    • Littlejl, thank you for the birthday wishes! I’d love to see your Memory List. It was a lot of fun to write and helped me to remember some things I’d forgotten.

  4. The idea of a memory list sounds useful. Recently I heard the writer, Michael Frayn on radio talk of how memory and invention are closely related.

    It makes you wonder how many memories are embellished over time into rich imaginings,simply in the effort both to remember and to write them down.

    Thanks for your wonderful list.

    • Elisabeth, I’ll have to keep my eye/ear out for Michael Frayn’s work. I think you are right that often our memories take on lives of their own. As I get older, my perspective on memories has changed. They are becoming like old friends.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: