Our family went through her belongings, and that’s when we discovered the lists, along with an astonishing stockpile of toothpaste. She had stashed lists in shoeboxes, between the pages of books, and in her desk drawers. I had a sudden image of my grandmomma leaning over in her recliner chair to jot something down in her notebook, and a puzzle piece slid silently into place in my mind. All those years I’d never consciously asked myself what she was writing, and now I knew.
She kept lists of Braves players, Characters on the Love Boat, and scents of potpourri she owned: peach, cinnamon, and apple. She kept lists of cards, phone calls, and visits she’d received.
Everyone speculated that she’d written all that stuff as a way of keeping her brain sharp. After all, she never displayed the slightest whiff of senility. But I disagreed.
I think she wrote those things for fun. She was a human being, and as such employed her natural desire for organization to that information that made her happy. Little things, like our favorite T.V. shows, possessions, or people, are fun to dwell on. In our heads, they are nice thoughts. On paper, pleasant thoughts become more concrete.
List-making is most certainly an inherited inclination. I’ve made arbitrary lists all my life. Once, sitting in the waiting room at my doctor’s office, I made a list of every single solitary food item in my kitchen. I love to cook, so my list was one of possibilities. I felt like a squirrel who had stockpiled plenty of nuts for the winter and knew she, her family, and any spontaneous dinner party attendant would be well fed.