REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE A KID and bored to tears at Hour Three of the eight-hour car ride to your grandparents’ house (pre-video games), and your mom would distract you with a game of I Spy? (“I spy with my little eye something beginning with the letter ‘D,'” you might say, hoping your parents would get the hint and pull over for Dairy Queen.)
Today, as writers, we can still play I Spy—only “backwards,” looking around our world (or the world of our characters) seeking objects that start with a certain letter or display a certain color or are made of a certain material (“I spy with my little eye something made of glass”). Why would we do this? Because we (and our characters) are pattern-seeking missiles—and focusing our pattern-making super-powers upon something as specific as “things starting with the letter ‘P'” can set a whole sweater’s-worth of associations unraveling.
For example: “I spy with my little eye something blue.” When I glance around my office, I see . . .
My business card . . .
My mouse pad . . .
The top of a Bic ballpoint pen . . .
The mat inside the frame of my college diploma!
Aha! That’s it.
When I finally graduated from Rollins College, my dad was so proud (or was that “relieved”?) he took me to the frame store and had my diploma framed. That same day—and this only a year before he died—we also stopped by the eyeglass shop to have his sunglasses repaired, ate bagels and scrambled eggs at Einsteins, and walked over to the drugstore to pick up his prescription.
That was one of the last “normal” days I had with my dad. He’d been sick—and then better, and then sick again—for several years. I haven’t thought of that visit recently, and have certainly never written about it. Maybe now I will.
So. What do you spy? And where does it take you?