When that Morgan Freeman/Jack Nicholson movie, The Bucket List, appeared in my TV listings last week, I remembered seeing the film around the time it came out in 2007. Justin Zackham had turned his own personal list of “things to do before I kick the bucket” into a screenplay for the film whose title then entered our common vocabulary.
The starring duo plowed through an adventurous agenda that included skydiving, a lion safari, and an around-the-world road trip with stops at the Great Wall of China, the Great Pyramids, and the Taj Mahal. One of the cancer patients was able to cross “laugh until I cry” off his list, while the other managed to “kiss the most beautiful girl in the world.”
Since then, it has been popular – fashionable even – for folks to draw up their own bucket lists. The difference between a bucket list and a wish list is not really clear to me, and bucket list items certainly resemble goals. It seems lots of people spend way more time making their lists than achieving them.
I have never jotted down a bucket list of any kind, although I must admit to having a reverse bucket list of sorts: looking back at what I have already accomplished instead of planning ahead for new endeavors.
During a recent inventory of my life, however, I discovered another list, an unfortunate collection of things I have not yet achieved and probably never will. It is not that I regret these shortcomings as much as I feel the need to explain the circumstances resulting in their inclusion on my, well, bucketless list.
For example, it may be unbelievable to some that I never learned to ride a bike. I would like to blame my failure to achieve this rite of childhood passage on lack of equipment: our tiny family budget did not permit bikes for any of us. In actuality, however, abject klutziness was the root cause of my inability to two-wheel my way down our River Road lane and has prevented my participation in the long, scenic bike rides fellow retirees regularly enjoy.
I also never learned to swim despite a certain longing to splash the summer away with others at Lakewood or Muzzys Lake. Oh, an opportunity to acquire this basic skill presented itself during a long-ago week at 4-H camp. However, the first rocky trek from Camp Clifton to John Bryan State Park for swimming facilities scared me silly. I never went back.
Years later I half-heartedly tried to rectify this lack in my life when a friend insisted he could teach me. A wardrobe malfunction, the gory details of which I refuse to share here, short-circuited the process; and I accepted the reality of this personal deficiency.
Sadly, another joy of childhood has completely eluded me. Despite practice, I have never been able to use bubblegum for one of its major purposes: to blow bubbles. I cannot even manage to crack my gum, accidentally or otherwise. Although I used to enjoy those little cartoons in the Bazooka gum packages – replaced a few years ago with rebus puzzles and brainteasers, I have had to make do with a lifetime of Juicy Fruit and Chiclets.
And for reasons I have yet to comprehend, I cannot whistle. I so envy those who can whistle entire songs while they work or summon help by sticking their fingers into their mouths and letting loose with a shrill, cautionary signal. What I have learned is to remain on the sidelines whenever pucker power is desired or required.
The use of gear for hobbies and entertainment has also not panned out for me. Excited one day in the 1950’s when my preschool sister met the bus at the end of the lane with her brand-new hula hoop, I soon learned there were hula hoops for all of us. Another sister quickly mastered the art of twirling her hoop around her waist for hours; she might have even entered one of those contests so popular at the time. Alas, my hoop always fell straight to the ground – regardless of any gyrations I attempted.
And I had to add roller skating to my list of lacks along about junior high time. Of course, I never had my own skates – or skate key around my neck – for rolling fun on the broad front sidewalk at Concord School. But a school party at the roller rink in Urbana confirmed that skating would never be part of my repertoire. With classmates whizzing by me multiple times, I managed to inch my way to the far side of the rink – just in time for the couple’s skate. I had to be rescued by a rink employee who rolled me to the sidelines.
My space has run out, although my bucketless list has not. My adult years are pocked with un-accomplishments: I have never made a pie and cannot create a French knot in my sewing for love or money. The skills of parallel parking, changing a tire, and adjusting my car clock for daylight savings time continue to baffle me.
Thus, I must settle for solace in the realization – or rationalization – that not everyone can do everything. On the other hand, I guess I should remember that I can type, knit, and conjugate verbs in two languages…
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.