(Nathaniel Grann/For The Washington Post)

Vicki Valosik, 34,

Silver Spring program officer and writer

(Nathaniel Grann/For The Washington Post)

Whenever I stumble upon an old list tucked in the back of a notebook or the bottom of a drawer — a packing list for a trip to meet my in-laws, a guest list for a party we hosted two cities and many goodbyes ago — it’s like discovering a flash-frozen slice of the past.

Recently, I found a page of “to-do’s” from the first time I stayed at my grandparents’ house without my mom and dad. The list, which switches halfway down the page from my grandmother’s neat printing to my 5-year-old scrawl, holds grand plans for our week together: going to the zoo, shelling beans, catching bugs, playing tic-tac-toe and solving crossword puzzles (“crass wrok posls”).

Whether it’s a single memory or a composite of all the times my grandmother and I sat together at her oilcloth-covered kitchen table, I can picture us — her nursing a cup of black coffee and a cigarette in her slow Mississippi manner and me squirming on a phone book — as we brainstormed our week’s itinerary.

It’s only a scrap of paper, but for me, it intimates the simple pleasure of being with someone I loved, time stretching ahead like a blank page full of possibilities. I can’t recall if my grandmother and I accomplished everything on our list, but judging from the crossed-out games of tic-tac-toe on the back, we didn’t waste any time getting started.

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