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Can you tell me which jack-o-lantern is new?

October 10, 2013

Growing up I read Highlights, a children’s magazine. My favorite feature was The Timbertoes, a comic strip about a family made of wood. I hated Hidden Pictures, which required readers to locate small objects masked within a larger illustration.

No, the puddle on that sidewalk doesn’t resemble a spoon, I would scowl while reviewing the answers in the back of the magazine.

That dog’s ear looks nothing like a pear, I would huff.

I didn’t curse then, so I would mutter things like “Oh fooey” and “Foot!”.

“Watch ye mouth,” my father still would sometimes scold me.

Hidden Pictures skewed my sense of self-worth since I never could make out a bottle of toothpaste sketched into a tree trunk or a hardback book that also served as a chimney. Despite the long-term emotional scarring Hidden Pictures caused, I now play a similar game every morning on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s website: the Find Five Challenge. Two color photographs are placed side by side, and within 45 seconds users must click five nuances on the right-hand image that don’t appear on the left. Even worse: three wrong tries, and you’re out. Sometimes my heart races during the final five-second countdown, reawakening memories of my Hidden Pictures failures as a four-year-old.

“A-ha! BOOYAH!” I once shouted when I successfully selected five subtle variations on a Bengal cat’s coat. Perhaps my boss thought I had figured out a particularly challenging string of CSS.

I’m pretty sure that when my father underwent neuropsychological testing he was forced to engage in exercises similar to Hidden Pictures and’s Find Five Challenge. He didn’t do well, hence an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

However, Daddy always is quick to point out items my mother recently has purchased; his eagle-eye attention to her shopping habits is deeply branded into his subconscious. Every year Mother scatters hundreds of jack-o-lanterns throughout the house along with other Halloween decorations. Jack-o-lanterns line the mantel, and Mother typically adds a new piece to the echelon every year. A couple weeks ago Mother arranged the multi-mooded pumpkins across the mantel and asked Daddy, “Can you tell me which jack-o-lantern is new?”

jack o' lanterns on Mother's mantel

“THAT ONE,” Daddy pointed without hesitation.

“You’re right!” Mother beamed.

Mother has spent Daddy’s money so predictably and for so long that Alzheimer’s still can’t cripple that part of his brain.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 7, 2013 10:03 am

    Hey, Bobbin — I enjoyed reading about your Daddy’s still-intact facility for spotting visual anomalies. Maybe it has to do with his predilections – for example, I’m quick to notice a change on the bookshelf but it might take me a couple of weeks to catch on that there’s a new chair in the living room. In your dad’s case, he seems to have retained the infallible ability of the family comptroller to detect fluctuations in inventory.

    Back in my day, before the Punic wars, my favorite Highlights feature was “Goofus and Gallant.” But my friends and I would always get a kick out of Goofus’s surly attitude and were repelled by that insufferable goody-two-shoes, Gallant. If you share this perspective, as I suspect you might, check out this great McSweeney’s piece:

    Keep up the good work.
    – Tom

    • November 7, 2013 10:24 am

      Thank you for introducing me to Goofus and Gallant! I’m sure Gallant meant well by sharing his oranges, but he probably transferred a lot of germs that way. What a self-righteous prick!

      Anyway, it makes sense that you would notice sudden little changes in your record and book collections but not the addition of a recliner or sleeper sofa. Your priorities are in the right place, Tom!

      But for real, I hope to see you soon. ❤

  2. Timber permalink
    December 8, 2013 3:28 pm

    Hmmm…which one is it?

    I was amazed when Mother told me that story. I wish I knew what was going on inside Daddy’s head!

  3. December 8, 2013 8:54 pm

    It’s the one with askew eyebrows looking up to the right — with its mouth open. Duh!!

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