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Richard W. Emer: It’s fun to get creative with lists

When I was about 10 years old, my mother would make a list of groceries we needed for the week. I would walk across the street to Loblaws and do the weekly shopping all by myself. As I got older, I think this experience started me making lists of my own.

At 75, I’m still going strong. Your normal grocery list is nothing new, but I have separate ones for different stores. Now I have multiple lists for different things. I presently have 24.

I got creative with my lists early on. In 1967, when I got married, I made a trip tree. Every time my wife and I took a trip, I added it to the list. It started on a 2-by-4-foot piece of poster board nailed to my office door. After 48 years of marriage, the trip tree has grown to cover the door and has started down the back. We love looking back at what we did in past years, and our children enjoy checking it to see where we traveled with them.

All my lists are written in pencil, and I erase a lot to update them. My wife saw me wearing out and sharpening so many pencils that she bought me mechanical pencils. But I still prefer the old way with a newly sharpened point and a good eraser.

For stability, I staple one sheet of paper to the cardboard backing of a legal pad for each list. There are things on my lists that I had hoped to accomplish years ago. I haven’t gotten to all of them, but that’s still my goal.

Sometimes I look at an old list and rewrite it with the most important things I still need to accomplish. Of course, each day new things have to be added while some are erased. It’s never ending.

My lists don’t always require things that have to be completed. Many contain things I’ve accomplished or things I want to keep track of.

One is a list of major repairs and updates to our house, including dates and costs of the projects. That will help when we decide to sell our home. My list of all the houses bought and sold in my neighborhood and their selling prices will help, too.

With so many fine dining restaurants in Western New York, I enjoy updating that list, adding new ones and checking off the ones we have visited. This is a very long list, divided between city and suburbs, and includes the ones with good bars with a good selection of draft beer.

Sharing a day with three grandchildren each week in the summer inspired me to start a list of places to take them. This has led to many delightful, and sometimes educational, bonding experiences.

More recently I started a list of my wife’s sayings. I don’t want to ever forget things like, “you don’t know diddly squat” or “whatever floats your boat” or, concerning the volume of the TV, “would you turn it down a smidge?”

I probably spend more time with my lists than with my wife. All I have to do is sit on the patio in the backyard on a summer day with a Manhattan in my hand and I can compile a new list.

Do I accomplish more by keeping these lists? Certainly – and I also put off doing things I don’t want to do. I’d comment more, but then I’d have to make a list of my most important lists.

What a lot of work I have to do. Now, to compile a new list and sharpen all my No. 2 pencils.