Skip to main content

B K L M: Books, Keys, Lunch Money. How I Learned How to Remember

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Fin lives in California's Central Valley and is interested in social issues. and creative writing.


The Innocent Pleasure of Youth

As I now pass through the mid century mark in years, I find myself looking back at my younger days and wondering why I made some of the decisions I did, and what would have happened had I followed my instincts.

If only I had taken the right calculus class in college, I could have been an engineer. If I had gotten the job at that pet store after graduation, I probably never would have pursued a librarian degree. If I had written that rock song (and learned how to write music) I might have had a chance to meet Miley Cyrus.

But one of the takeaways, one of the things I still remember to this day, is my father saying "BKLM. Books, keys, lunch money," to us as we left every morning. "BKLM" he would say, his hands cupping his mouth. He would look at us - myself, my brother, and my sister and smile. "Always remember, BKLM" he would tell us.

I remember feeling a bit embarrassed at this, even a bit annoyed. I didn't like being told what to do by adults and this mantra (I would not have called it that then) was over the top. I was embarrased for my father who seemed silly, offering his intonations which seemed meaningless and unimportant at the time. Years later, I would understand why he did this and what he was trying to teach us.

I was embarrased as well because many the peers in my neighborhood did not have fathers - or at least ones that were present in their lives. And in most cases, they didn't have a parental figure shuffling them off to school, offering them words of wisdom. All the kids in my neighborhood had stepfathers, or absent parents who would sometimes let them smoke or drink alcohol. They were cool.

It would be many years before I realized what those few letters actually meant and what my father was trying to do for us.


Remember How Memory Works

The primary definition of memory, according the Merriam-Websters, is: ": the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained especially through associative mechanisms". Many scientists agree that there are four major types of memory: working, sensory, short term and long term.

Generally, there must be stimulus that occurs which is perceived by the brain. The mind works to interpret this stimulus and then stores it away. Because our senes are bombarded daily by so many influences, only certain bits of information are consciously recognized by the brain.

Think about a typical commute to work - you may drive the same route every day - and how many different visual stimulations you encounter. The motorcycle weaving between traffic, the flashing sign in front of the restaurant, pedestrians etc. Most of the time these objects will not even be recognized or will soon be forgotten. If your brain had to consciously interpret and analyze everything you saw or heard, you would probably go insane.

Interesting article on memory

  • What Is Memory?
    Memory refers to the processes used to acquire, store, retain, and later retrieve information. Learn about why we lose memory and how to boost it.


When you hear the word devices, you are probably thinking about your cell phone, your computer, your tablet. Something electronic that makes noises and shows pictures. Something you can talk to and it will talk back. Something you can ask a question on any topic, and get an immediate answer.

There was a time though when things were not so simple. A device in this context means something useful (not that cell phones are not), that will make your life a little easier.

BKLM stood for Books, Keys, Lunch Money...but it meant so much more.

Books you needed to get by in school. Keys were the devices that let you inside the doors - which were locked because your parents were not home. Lunch Money was a device that let you eat.

All of these - the books, the keys, the lunch money - were so much more than that.

They were what let you survive in life. The most important devices of all.


Getting by with BKLM

Even though I don't need my books for school any more, I still need my keys and I still need to make sure I have my lunch with me, or some way to acquire it. I need a different kind of book however, and that is the manual for living (M4L).

The M4L is work in progress continuously being edited and reworked. The M4L is the better sensibility that hides in my subconscious sometimes. It lets me know what I steps I should take next. How to respond. Or to remain silent. Sometimes I don't bother to peruse the pages. Often I will read chapters and forget the contents.

Sometimes I leave the house and realize that the book, M4L was left on the shelf.

Mnemonic Devices

Create Your Own Nmemonic Device

A Kinder Gentler Time

I never took the opportunity to thank my father for instilling in me something important. When he taught us about BKLM, he was more than encouraging us to keep track of the supplies we would need to make it through a day at school. He was preparing us for life.

Now all a parent has to say is, "I text my kids two or three times a day"....

I look back on those days sometimes, being ten maybe eleven. Heading out for the bus stop, a little anticipatory, a little frightened. A little unsure why that man standing on the porch is waving his hands and smiling at me, almost laughing, calling out "BKLM! BKLM!"

Now if I could turn around, I would run back to that man, my father and say "thank you. Thank you. I have my BKLM. I have my BKLM because of you".

© 2022 Fin

Related Articles