We all have one, and ever since the movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, it has a name: the bucket list. Which is a clever name for things we want to do in our lives before we kick the bucket. As in die.
When we are young our bucket lists are quite long. There is a lifetime of things to do, to accomplish, to accumulate. Some of them we get to check off and others we do not. But here is one thing I have noticed as I have gotten older – things that were once on my bucket list aren’t there anymore.
When I was young, my mother’s Aunt Alma lived in an elegant home built in the 1930s. This home was no mansion, but it was an expensive house in its day, built by a successful doctor and his wife, and included such luxuries as pushbutton radio tuners behind small, polished wooden doors in several of its rooms. I always imagined that someday I would live in a house like that.
This is an item that is no longer on my bucket list. In my city there are many such houses in many such neighborhoods, but the problem is that they were either financially out of reach thirty years ago (a situation that has only gotten worse with time) or they are in iffy neighborhoods or in need of major rehab. I have reached the point in my life where I am not willing to risk being a pioneer in turning a neighborhood around after a descent into a crime haven and have also lost the appetite for investing the kind of sweat equity necessary to turn a house-sized sow’s ear into a silk purse. So scratch one item.
Another item is a grand old wooden speedboat. When I was a kid my family lived in a part of northeastern Indiana that is near quite a few lakes. In my youth almost everyone I knew either had someone in the family who owned a lake cottage or was on good terms with one of those people so as to be invited there periodically. “Going to the lake” was a common answer to “What are you doing this weekend?” It didn’t matter which lake, as the selection was large. And many of those lakes were inhabited in the summers by folks with beautiful antique wooden boats.
These were the classic boats seen in old movies, with inboard motors that were often inline six or eight cylinder marine engines that sounded lovely as they burbled at idle or even lovelier as they skimmed across the water’s surface with someone on water skis following behind. “That” I said to myself “is going to be me someday.”
I was tantalized by a couple of them early in my life, one that had been pulled out of a garage after who knows how many decades and needed someone with far more woodworking skills than I had (then or now). Another was on a trailer at a marina near a lake cottage my father owned. I still remember it, a 1951 Century with a Chrysler six cylinder marine engine – it was one of the later ones, but still had the classic look that would soon give way to the more familar shapes of the fiberglass boats that followed. It cost, coincidentally, almost exactly what I had just paid for an engagement ring for Marianne. I jokingly suggested that we could take the ring back and own a classic boat. She not so jokingly suggested that I would be enjoying said classic boat without her.
As you have guessed, I never got my boat. But I can pretty well guarantee I would never have kept the boat but I still have classic Marianne. And I am fine with that. I do not own a place at a lake and I know that wooden boats hate cycles of going into and out of the water, with multiple wet-dry-wet-dry cycles not being tolerated well by the wood. I do not wish to spend the time required to maintain such a beast and realize that enjoy vs. maintain would be an unfavorable ratio. I see such a boat now and smile a little wistfully, but the urge to go out and find one for myself is not there at all.
Not all of my bucket list items were grand things. Another was a basement rec room with a pool table. My mind always conjured pictures of entertaining family and friends in such a game room as we sip on cold beers and laugh at each others’ stories and sink billiard balls by impressive displays of applied geometry. But I have gotten old enough to know that we are long past the age where that sort of thing would see regular use. And if my experience at others’ homes is any indication, that pool table would sit alone and unused in a dark room 99% of the time now.
Yes, I am maybe a little wistful about letting go of some off these old visions about what my life would be like “someday”. But I am also largely content with things as they are and do not need more toys or an extravagant money pit of a house (or one that is a bigger money pit than the sixty year old residence I currently call home) to be happy. In fact, I think what would really make me happy is a big truck to back up to the garage for filling with all the stuff we have but no longer use.
For every thing there is a season, observed the author of Ecclesiastes (and later the Byrds) and I am happy to reach the season where less is more.