The red balloon.

Red balloon

The key, I say, is to start with a good anchor and then keep it simple; let simple words do the work so you can remember: I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking an alligator.

I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking an alligator and a ball, she says.

I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking an alligator, a ball and a cat, he adds.

Alligator, ball, cat, dog, elephant, flower, guinea pig, hat, ice cream…  until memory faltered, somewhere around orangutan or pencil, the complicated additions interfering downstream. Was it a flower or a feather? Only the orangutan knew for certain.

Let’s start over; I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking an aardvark.

An aardvark and a badger.

An aardvark, a badger and a cougar….

This will be an interesting ride.


Do you remember the first summer we drove to Michigan, when we packed the car with your tiny tote bags, one a bright red ladybug the other a bright green frog, both filled neatly with markers and doodle pads and Etch-a-Sketch and Slinkys and little cartons of Goldfish, and we played the alphabet game?

I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking a memory. How big I thought you were, although you were actually very small. You were catching real ladybugs and frogs with pudgy fingers, dancing in the surf as it lapped the sand, exploring the forest with a stick when we walked to the library for books.


You think of it as our game, but you don’t know that it is also my game, just for myself, a test to preserve my memory. Memory is the thing I most fear losing.

I have always had a good memory, uncannily good, too good, sometimes. I remember phone numbers of childhood playmates, birthdays, addresses, how people are related. Scores of bits of useless data, all catalogued and shelved in my mind.

But you move so swiftly, and with so little repetition. One minute you are Amelia Bedelia and Babar, the next you are Lilly Pulitzer and Macbooks. How can the letters come so fast?

So I practice to keep things in shape. Yesterday it was this, a cross between a confession and a prayer:

I’m going on a trip and I’m taking ambition. Ambition and bravery. Ambition, bravery, and candor. Ambition, bravery, candor, determination, effort, fragility (that is where you came in), gratitude, hubris, initiative, judgment, karma, laughter and memory…. Memory is where I want to pause.


I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking ‘Arry Potter, you said once, on a Wednesday, on the way to the eye doctor.

No, silly, I say; Harry Potter doesn’t begin with “A.”

It does when Hagrid says it, you smirk.

You’re going on a trip, and you are taking humor and intelligence, although I hope you don’t realize it just yet. But I see it; I see your alphabet, starting now to take its independent shape, spelling your story, not mine.


I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking an avalanche, you say, not to me but to a friend, as you try to ignore me, as you both try to ignore me and instead keep the balloon aloft, a letter choreographed with each tap.

An avalanche and a balloon.

An avalanche, a balloon, and a chameleon. You are already giggling; this list, I think, will be short-lived.

An avalanche, a balloon, a chameleon, a dumb brother, an elevator, fart pills and goose eggs! You are laughing uncontrollably now, lost in a swirling Saturday late afternoon.


I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking nostalgia, wishing I had paid closer attention to details, wanting to remember every second, though already thinking ahead to what’s next.

Optimism, perhaps; surely not obfuscation, though nostalgia could easily lead to either. Fifteen letters down, eleven to go. Possibly I should start over, tell it a different way, even just to myself, remember that the key is to start with a solid anchor and then keep it simple, let simple words do the work so one can remember.

I’m going on a trip, and I am taking abundance.

Food | Week of April 25, 2016


  1. I always find a quiet place to read your words. Because sometimes they are so absolutely perfect I just want to sit with them resting on my lap and I want to pat them a bit and then look at nothing in particular and hold that heavy sad feeling that is made okay because there’s so much beauty there. Thank you for writing this lovely thing and sharing with the rest of us.

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  2. I always want to say exactly, verbatim, what Jen G said. Instead, I’m going to sit here quietly with your words, and pat them a bit, and look at nothing in particular… so much beauty and depth. Just magic. (Which apparently, Marie already said). xox

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