Or So it Seems … Potholes on Memory Lane

Karin and I are out on our morning walk, and a truck speeds by.

“I bet they’re going to work on the fence,” Karin says.

“Whose fence?”  I ask.

“You know.… Down there,” she waves her arm, “near the end of the street.”

I picture the neighborhood, and take a guess. “You mean Gary’s?”

“Yes! That’s his name,” she says. “You coached their daughter.”

“Yeah, and her name is … ahhhh….”

“Salina,” Karin smiles. She’s pulled even in the try-to-pry-it-from-your-whipped-out-brain competition.

“Yeah, right,” I say. “So just give me a minute, OK? I was getting there.”

She shoots me a victor’s smile.

“OK, smarty pants,” I ask, “what’s their last name?”

Karin studies her shoes.

“I know this is wrong,” I say, “but the first thing that comes to mind is Berg…”

“NO-NO-NO. Don’t say it.” Karin holds up her hand. “You’ll just mess up my mind.”

“Well I know it’s not Bergstrom.”

“Gee, that helps.” Her brow furrows.

The clock is running again. I try to visualize the old soccer roster, and then I repeat to myself, “Oh, look it’s Gary and Salina ….” And I pause, but no dice.

“Got it yet?” I ask.

Karin narrows her eyes. “All I can think is ‘It’s not Bergstrom.’”

“You’re right,” I say. “It’s not.”  Then, somewhere inside my tired brain, a door opens and a name is whispered to me.

“Wait! Wait! I know,” I shout. “It’s either Strickler or Strickland.”

“It’s Strickler,” she says.

“That’s what I said.”

“You weren’t sure,” Karin looks at me and arches her eyebrows. “At least I knew it when I heard it.”

“So what were you saying about the Stricklers?”

She looks confused.

“The truck?” I prompted.

“What about their truck?”

“The one that drove by?”

“Oh, that,” she says. “Yeah. I think they’re building a fence.”

Maybe we both need a bit more coffee before we walk.


Karin and I have been together more than 30 years, and usually, between the two of us, we can coax enough information out of our noggins to get by. Sometimes, though, it can be fun watching your partner sweat, trying to remember something important. Years ago I pulled one of my favorite pranks on Karin by sending her flowers, a box of chocolates, and a simple message:

“Do you remember what happened 12 years ago today?”

I made sure the flowers were delivered first thing in the morning.

And then, I waited.

Later, much later, I got the call. Karin thanked me profusely, and then said in a quiet, sheepish voice.

“Love, I thought about it all day, and …. I can’t remember. It wasn’t our first kiss. That was near Christmas. It wasn’t the first time I told you I love you, that was on Valentine’s Day. So what DID happen 12 years ago today?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “But I’m sure something important did happen, and I thought you’d be the one to remember.”

Now, I have to report that it’s a strange thing that you can send a woman flowers and chocolates and have her get mad at you.

Well, miffed anyway.

But she kept the flowers.

We tease each other now and then on our trips down Memory Lane. But lately the potholes are getting bigger, and even with the two of watching out for one another, we can stumble.

So it took us half a block to remember a name to convey a simple thought. And that’s not all. On this very same walk, we shuffled another 50 feet when I fell into my next memory pothole.

We saw a dog bolt past an electrical pet-fence and into the street.

“Oh, oh” Karin said. “Katie’s not wearing her training collar.”

I looked at the pooch. It was prancing about, wagging its tail. “Isn’t she called Sara?” I asked.

“No,” Karin rolled her eyes. “That’s their daughter’s name.”

“Oh,” I pointed at the house. “But they’re still Jill-and-Dave? Right?”

“Yes,” Karin nodded, “still.”

“And their son… His name is the same as Lynda-and-Dave’s on the corner.”

“Good for you,” Karin said, and then tilted her head expectantly.

I strained, but again, nothing. I saw Karin’s little half-smile again.

“Brian,” she said.

“Well triple bonus-points for you,” I said. “But should we call Jill-and-Dave about Katie?”

Karin nodded. “But I don’t have my phone.”

“I’ve got mine. What’s the number?”

Karin scrunched up her face.

“It’s a really easy number,” she said.

“Great. What is it?”

She shrugged. “I can’t tell you, but I remember that it’s easy to remember.’

We both cracked up, and I gave Karin a hug. Katie dashed back into her yard, and we continued our walk.

“I think we’d better stencil your phone number in your underwear,” I said.

“And your name in yours,” Karin replied.

I laughed.

“This reminds me of the yarn about the guy, his garden and the thorn bush. Heard it?” I asked. “It’s great.”

“Well then, tell it.”

“OK. An old gardener takes a walk with his wife and another couple. The man is chatting with his new friends, describing his flower garden. He says, ‘In the front, I’ve got a row of those big yellow flowers. Oh, bother. What-cha-call-em? You know, the ones with seeds you can eat.’”

“His friend says. ‘Sunflower?’ And the guys says, ‘Yeah that’s it.’”

“Then the guy says, ‘And I’ve got these vines that are just taking over everything. Oh, blast. What-cha-call-em? They’re purple and the bees love ‘em.?’”

“His friend says, ‘Vinca?’ And the guy says, ‘Yeah that’s it.’”

“And finally the guys says. ‘But my favorites are up against the house. Oh, brother. What-cha-call-em?’  The guy stops, takes his friend by the collar and asks urgently. ‘Tell me, what are those bushes with thorns?’”

“His friend says, ‘Rose?’ And the guys says. ‘Yeah, that’s it,’ and then he turns to his wife and says: “Hey, Rose, what do you call those flowers up against the house?”

I waited for a reaction, and Karin smiled.

“You know,” she said, “I’m the one who told you that joke.”

“Oh really?” I’m crestfallen. “Then why’d you let me repeat it?”

“Well,” she squeezed my hand. “I don’t mind hearing it again.”

“How kind.”

“That,” she smiled, “and I’d forgotten the punch line.”

Robb has enjoyed writing and performing since he was a child, and many of his earliest performances earned him a special recognition-reserved seating in the principal’s office at Highland Elementary. Since then, in addition to his weekly column on A News Cafe – “Or So it Seems™” – Robb has written news and features for The Bakersfield Californian, appeared on stage as an opening stand-up act in Reno, and his writing has been published in the Funny Times. His short stories have won honorable mention national competition. His screenplay, “One Little Indian,” Was a top-ten finalist in the Writer’s Digest competition. He has two humor books in print, The Doggone Christmas List and The Stupid Minivan. Robb presently lives, writes and teaches in Shasta County, Northern California.

Robb Lightfoot is a humorist, author and educator. He and his wife raised a family of four kids, a dozen or more dogs and a zillion cats. He has enjoyed writing and performing since he was a child, and many of his earliest performances earned him a special recognition-reserved seating in the principal’s office at Highland Elementary. Since then, in addition to teaching at Shasta Community College, and his former column on A News Cafe - "Or So it Seems™" - Robb has written news and features for The Bakersfield Californian, appeared on stage as an opening stand-up act in Reno, and his writing has been published in the "Funny Times". His short stories have won honorable mention in national competitions. His screenplay, “One Little Indian,” Was a top-10 finalist in the Writer’s Digest competition. Robb presently lives and writes in Chico where he manages ThinkingFunny.com. He also hates referring to himself in the third person, and will stop doing so immediately. I can be reached in the following ways: Robb@thinkingfunny.com PO Box 5286 Chico, CA 95928 @_thinking_funny on Twitter
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7 Responses

  1. Avatar Dave K. says:

    What's her name and I really enjoyed this, Bob. Thanks.

    • Avatar Robb says:

      It's funny that I can remember numbers well but names…. They drive me crazy. Karin's the one who is on top of that. We usually make a point, to help each other out, of making a point of addressing the person we bump into by name. This doesn't help when I run into a student I had 23 years ago though. (But it's forgetting the names of the ones I had LAST TERM that embarrass me.)

  2. Avatar Sally says:

    I loved your piece – it made me laugh. I've lived here long enough that almost all faces look familiar, but name? not a clue. So, if I'm going to a gathering with someone, I request that if I do not introduce him/her, my friend should introduce one's self, and the other will say their name back…BINGO! It works.

  3. Avatar Carol M says:

    At least my husband and I aren't the only ones!! About mid morning, I asked my husband what would be good for lunch. I threw out a few ideas and we both went on with our projects. A couple of hours later, I went out to where he was working and asked him what we had decided on…He thought for second and said we never had decided on anything. Once in the kitchen, I opened the refrigerator and remembered what we had decided on. I couldn't remember our choice and he couldn't remember we'd made a choice!!

  4. Avatar LovestoEat says:

    Another great piece Robb. You have such a knack for making us smile. I suppose as long as we can be aware of our forgetfulness we are somewhat safe, it's when we don't realize it that I guess others have to worry about us.

  5. Avatar Kathryn says:

    This is a genuine tickler, Robb. I chuckled all the way through.

  6. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    I can't remember the names of students . . . old or new. I used to tell them, "Even though I call roll every day and see your name every day, when I see you in the hall if I get the first two letters of your name right, feel special!"