What Mary Jo Taught Me About Dating
What Mary Jo Taught Me About Dating
Long term Executive Director of the Rogers Park West Ridge Historical Society, Mary Jo Doyle, a friend of mine who died two years ago, once taught me an important rule, one which people ought to follow their entire lives. Ask anyone who knows me: not only to do I consistently abide by this rule, but I constantly remind people who are important to me, i.e. my kids, or people on whom I rely, i.e. my office manager, my property managers, my bookie, to adhere to it.
The rule (I can hear Mary Jo saying it right now): “Date everything!”
Yes. It’s true. It doesn’t matter what it is: a memo to an employee (even instructions left on a post-a-note); a message to yourself; a card to a friend; a “to-do” list – just date it.
I can hear Mary Jo offer clarification. With a scolding tone in her voice, she’d bark out “not just the month and day, but the year as well. Always add the year!”
I think about Mary Jo’s advice every time I go through old papers and other collectibles – pictures drawn by my kids when they were in pre-school, work related comments or personal observations scribbled on old legal pads, or entries my friends make in my guest book at my summer cottage – the document is richer and the context clearer when I know the date and year. Similarly, I’m left hanging and feeling under served when the document lacks a date.
I recently opened an old box storing family collectibles located in a storage locker. From it I retrieved an aged sheet of blue construction paper with a stick figure sporting a large round face and what appears to be a baseball mitt and ball in the figure’s hands. “Wow. Mitch did that?” I exclaimed, looking at the work of my son, now aged 20. “I wonder how old he was when he drew this.”
How pleased I was turning the paper around to see that someone had written the date “May 21, 1991” in the upper right hand corner. “God, he was just over 2 and a half. Imagine; he loved baseball even then!”
Or, I have found journals that I wrote around fifteen years ago, soul-searching rants as I tried to figure out which direction to take my life. Reading these journals, untouched for so many years, I shake my head in disbelief as I see the state of my head as I compare and contrast my life now versus back then. I’m glad to know exactly when (and sometimes where) I wrote each entry. The dates offer me perspective, preventing me from having to guess when or where I wrote them. (Of course, I’m usually blown away at how little I’ve changed!)
I am deeply gladdened when I do receive occasional (these days, all too rarely) letters or cards from my kids – for they nearly always contain the date. I know that by adding the date my kids are conveying a message to me: “See Dad. I listened to you!”
Years from now when they pull these card from a similar box of family archives (or from my dresser drawer) they will smile when they see that they added the date. They’ll remember that I taught them to do it, and I’m sure that they’ll teach their kids to do the same.
Whenever anyone uses my summer cottage, I urge him or her to sign the guest book and to write about his or her thoughts or impressions, or to note funny or memorable things that happened during their visit. Later, when I glance at the submission, I’ll always look to see if he or she added the date.
If I they are no longer at the house, I’ll add it myself. But if my guest is still there, particularly if the person submitting the entry is young and impressionable, I’ll remind him or her to add the date. And I think of my friend Mary Jo Doyle as I scold them. “And add the year!”
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