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Forgetting the Joe stories

As a professor, I need to know and remember a lot. But I also forget a lot. Names. Faces. Things I promised Michelle that I’d do soon. The syntax and semantics of APL [1]. How I know people. That I once taught a course that included three weeks of PHP [2]. I accept that I forget things; there are enough new inputs that I’m not sure that my brain could store anything. I also accept that my memory weakness is likely tied to some positive strength [4].

Nonetheless, forgetting some things makes me particularly sad. One such set of things are what I call The Joe Stories.

Back when Eldest was young, he liked bedtime stories. Sometimes we read books. There were a few Grover and Elmo books that were popular. Some Rosemary Wells books, too. And, well, I forget the rest. I do remember that my childhood favorites, such as Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library were not as popular with Eldest.

But I also made up bedtime stories. For a year or more, I told stories about a kid named Joe. The stories started something like this.

Let me tell you about a kid named Joe. Joe was pretty much a typical kid, except for one thing. Joe liked money and he always came up with new schemes to get money. That’s schemes, not scams. Joe would be the first to tell you that there’s an important difference. While both schemes and scams are designed to separate people from their money, schemes give people some value for that money.

Of course, every scheme failed for some reason or other. Joe almost always ended up more in debt to his parents because he’d borrowed money for the scheme and ended up having to refund his customers. Along the way, I introduced two new recurring characters, John, Joe’s best friend and, well, a bit of a crazy kid, and Dan [5], a new kid in school who was smarter than everyone else [6].

It was a recurring bedtime ritual for all three children. I told dozens and dozens and dozens of Joe stories to Eldest and Middle and Youngest.

At one point, I thought about trying to write them down. But at this point, I don’t remember much more than what I just reported, perhaps just a few of the schemes. One involved Joe finding clay in the backyard and deciding to go into the pottery business. Unfortunately, John ended up having too much fun playing in the clay. There was almost certainly a fresh-squeezed lemonade adventure, and John ended up drinking all of the lemonade [7].

I don’t think my kids remember the details of the stories, either.

But I do remember what the most important things. I remember the pleasure of sitting with my kids and telling them stories. I remember the joy of being together and laughing together at the fictitious John’s antics or at another of Joe’s failed plans [8].

Remembering those things makes me happy. I hope my kids have similar happy memories.

I wonder what we’ll look back on in a decade and remember [9]. And I wonder what we’ll have forgotten.

[1] Yes, I took a Computer Graphics in APL course back in 1986 or so. We even had the nifty IBM terminals that let you type the Greek characters that APL uses. I have no memory of how to program in APL, other than that it involves a lot of matrices.

[2] Seriously. I was ranting about how much I dislike PHP. Then an alum said, But you taught me PHP. It turns out that I’d taught a course that included PHP [3].

[3] I’ve even forgotten whether or not I’ve told that story already.

[4] I find myself challenged to say what that positive strength is.

[5] While I know that I named the first character John, I don’t completely remember what I named the second character.

[6] I didn’t claim that my choices represented great artistic innovation.

[7] Classics of American literature, these were not.

[8] It’s not clear that getting kids to laugh hysterically as they go to bed is a very good idea. But they were usually ready to go to bed when the story was over, so I must have accomplished something.

[9] Probably We remember that Dad sat in his office every night typing random musings. And we remember correcting errors in his endnotes almost every day.

Version 1.0 of 2018-03-17.