Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, move over. It is I, Marla Boone, Queen of Lists.
Frankly, being the Queen of Soul sounds much more cool than being the Queen of nearly everything else, but if Marie Antoinette taught us anything at all, it is not to lose your head over a title. Marie allegedly stumbled over the toe of her executioner while walking to the guillotine and begged his pardon, explaining that she did not step on him on purpose. Stepped all over his ration of bread, sure, but not his foot. All her faults aside, this could make her a shoo-in for the Queen of Courtesy. Now…where to put that crown?
If nothing else can be said for my own affliction, it is that I came by it honestly. I inherited the title from my mother, who made lists to keep track of her lists. You would think I was indulging in a little literary license to make a point. You would be wrong. My mother is the most organized person in North America, if not the universe. She plans and plans, trying to think of every eventuality for every occasion. This is not only exhausting to actually do, it’s exhausting to watch.
She and my father used to love to take their boat to Lake Erie fishing. My dad would take four sodas in a cooler and an old hat. He was ready to go in a heartbeat, assuming the ice cubes were plentiful and the truck was filled with gas. The ice cube trays and gas tank were guaranteed to be full because the night before they left on their trip, my mom would double check that “Make ice” and “Fill truck” were marked off her list.
Those particular entries were merely two of the general items. Her personal list was, shall we say, somewhat more comprehensive. Among rather much else, she took two hand towels, two bowls, two pair of sunglasses, and money for the ferry down to the exact nickel. One pair of sunglasses could conceivably fall into the lake, although she did have, somewhere in mid-list, a notation to bring along one of those devices that tether one’s glasses around one’s neck. And of course a Lake Erie ferry boat company that had been in business for forty years could never be depended upon to be able to make change. But I’m guessing you yourself are guessing about the bowls and towels.
One bowl, and I swear I am not making this up, was for rinsing off her worms. My mother will never be mistaken for a pioneer woman, but she would not hesitate to plunge her hand into the bait box for a big fat nightcrawler. Unfortunately, the nightcrawlers were currently crawling in dirt and this was well outside her comfort zone. So before the worms went swimming in the big lake, they went swimming in the little bowl. Once the now-clean worm was on the hook, my mother would use the other bowl full of water to rinse her hands and then one of the towels to dry them.
By this time you are no doubt on the edge of your seat wondering what in the world that second towel was for. Being a fair-minded person I will give you three guesses. Ten. Twenty. No, seriously, take your time and try to think up the most unlikely use for a towel on a boat. Give up?
In the event my mother’s fishing endeavors met with success, there was the matter of the fish to be contended with. My dad was busy, see, driving the boat and drinking one of his four sodas. Fish, for the uninitiated, are slimy, slippery, and covered with sharp fins. Some species are supplied with equally sharp teeth. When all that unpleasantness is totaled up, it settles several more nautical miles on the lee side of her comfort zone. The second towel, the fish towel, if you will (to differentiate it from the worm towel), was used to grasp the fish for the ceremony of its unhooking. Why in the sweet, wide world the worm towel could not see double duty as the fish towel is utterly beyond me. She was egalitarian enough to use the same bowl of water to rinse the fish slime as the worm dirt but that was as big a compromise as she was willing to make.
Having inherited the list gene, I call this being thorough. My husband calls it end-stage OCD. And Marie Antoinette? She is oddly quiet on the matter.