Recess at Reservoir Avenue School wasn’t much fun for her. As a chunky klutzy kid, she was among the last to be chosen for group games. She wasn’t very good at jumping rope because her feet and the rope would entangle. She usually avoided playing marbles because she didn’t want to risk losing her favorites — and she had so many favorites, especially the clear glass aggies. There was, however, one game at which she did moderately well.
This game may have had a name, but she only remembers it as “ A, my name is Alice.” All one needed was a ball. The rules were simple: bounce the ball, “A,” bounce the ball, “my name is,” leg over the ball, “Alice,” bounce the ball, “My husband’s” bounce the ball, “name is,” leg over the ball, “Andy,” bounce the ball, “We,” bounce the ball, “live in,” leg over the ball, “America,” bounce the ball, “And,” bounce the ball, “we sell,” leg over the ball, “apples.” The on to B and the rest of the alphabet. One’s turn lasted until that player either lost control of the ball or couldn’t think of the a word beginning with the designated letter.
The only rule she remembers is that the names of people or objects could not be repeated. She often won at this game because she knew a lot of words.
Many years later, she realized this was a good way to conquer insomnia as long as she left the ball out of the process. It’s akin to counting sheep, but not as boring. Sometimes she sharpened the rules of the game. For example, she might try to match the first two letters of each word: Arlene/Arnold/Arcata/arsenic, but that was so challenging, she found herself tempted to get out of bed to consult a reference book or Google. All of which defeated the purpose of going to sleep.
Another way was to limit the the places to live to North American cities or not allow trade names or to only sell food. When she imposed that last rule, she discovered that there are many more foods starting with letters early in the alphabet than at the end. Think of apples, apricots, almonds, avocados. artichokes, asparagus, anchovies, blueberries, bacon, beans, bananas, butter, bread, beef, beets, chocolate, chicken, cucumbers, cakes, cookies, candy, cantaloup, chocolate, carrots, corn, cherries, chocolate, cauliflower, celery, cheese, clams, coffee, and yet more chocolate. It was enough to make her get out of bed and head straight to the refrigerator for something to eat. Which is the last thing she should do because, like so many people she knows, she would like to shed some pounds.
One night, again in the throes of insomnia, she recalled yet another experiment to determine the best way to lose weight. A bunch of rats were divided into three groups. The first ate anything they wanted; the second consumed a low-fat diet; the third was restricted to kibble. Although the contents of their meals differed, all three could eat whenever they wanted and as much as they wanted. All the rats gained weight, but the anything-goes group became morbidly obese. The experiment was repeated with one difference. This time all three groups had to consume all their food within eight hours. All lost weight, even those who ate whatever they wanted. The experiment was repeated with the allowed eating time expanded to twelve hours, and it still worked.
Then the experimenters moved on to humans. The people were divided into two groups. The first could eat anything they wanted, but they had to eat it within an eight-hour period; the members in the second had a more restricted diet — but not kibble — which they consumed in the same limited time frame. Both groups lost weight, although the second lost more. In a second experiment, the eating time was expanded to 12 hours. The results were the same, even when the dieters were allowed to cheat on weekends. It sounded too good to be true.
This was going to be her new way of life.
Unfortunately, she has a tendency to over-think things. Now she stays awake wondering which 12-hour time period would best suit her lifestyle. Six to six? Seven to seven? Eight to eight? Spare-time thinking may not have been more pleasant in the third grade, but it was a lot simpler.
Then all she had to remember was that A, her name was Alice.
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