For the longest time she added things to her bucket list: skydive, participate in the Polar Plunge, visit Italy. The list got longer and longer. It was a good list. She felt good about it and would periodically review it to ensure the things on it hadn’t yet been completed, (they never had and the only thing crossed off was a joke), and that the things on it were still things she wanted to see and do. She was confident that an ever growing bucket list meant she was not only a fascinating person with passionate aspirations but also that she couldn’t possibly die because she simply had too much to accomplish.
The Bucket List began as a sort of joke after her grandmother died, still very young, of lung cancer after having never smoked a cigarette or worked in a coal mine in her life. Her mother, flippant as always, expressed sadness at her own mother’s passing but more so at the fact that her life had been so uneventful. “Life isn’t meant to be wasted, darling,” she’d said to her daughter, “one ought to have a list of dreams.” And so the birth of The Bucket List.
She’d continued to add to the list as she heard of clever adventures or unusual events. And as she got a little older the list grew older too, but never shorter. And then one day her own mother died, an unexpected heart attack as the woman was in fine fiddle and not in any risk groups unless you count her own mother’s genetic predisposition to lung cancer. Her own mother. What was she to do with that. There was no one at the funeral to tell her what a shame it was. And it was. She realized she’d never heard her mother’s list of dreams and had no idea whether or not she’d achieved them.
“Life isn’t meant to be wasted, Mother,” she said quietly over the open pit, the coffin already lowered down, “I’m going to fulfill my list of dreams.” She threw in a handful of frozen dirt, turned on her heel, and walked purposefully to her car. She sat in the drivers seat for a moment, letting the car warm up, her list in her hand. The easiest item to accomplish was the first one and with that she drove to the closest gas station.
It took her a moment to get the match lit, not being accustomed to cheap matchbooks and her hands shaking from the cold, but when the match fwished into fire she smiled and brought it up to the cigarette clamped between her teeth. Nothing much happened until she decided to take a puff and then suddenly the cigarette was lit, there was a cloud of ash in her mouth, and she began to cough. Tears streaming from her eyes she finally managed to get the coughing under control and looked at the cigarette. It was still lit, a little grey line of ashes developing at its tip. She took one more puff, just to be sure she’d done the first one properly, and immediately began hacking and coughing again. Stamping out the cigarette she threw the remainder in the trash along with the rest of it’s unsmoked brethren.
Once again in the car she put a check next to the first item on her list and looked down for the next easiest thing. Nothing else would be quite that fast but she realized that watching a black and white film would be the next easiest thing to accomplish. She drove home, turned on the TV, and searched for “black and white.” A very brief cascade of films appeared and she chose the first: Casablanca.
She was so inspired and moved by Casablanca that she spent several more hours over several more days watching black and white films. She felt she’d been living under a rock. How had she never seen these beautiful works? Especially when it was so incredibly easy to do. After the seventh or eighth film she remembered there was a whole wide world outside of her living room and a long list awaiting her attention. She was hungry, and chose to eat at a fancy restaurant rather than make herself the staple grilled cheese she would normally have.
Arriving at the fanciest restaurant she knew an hour later, freshly showered and wearing her only fancy dress and her fanciest shoes (they were sneakers but at least they were a dark color, perhaps no one would notice), she walked in. Luckily as a table for one she was easily accommodated and while she’d never before had a meal with so many courses and so many dishes that she couldn’t pronounce, nor even knew what they were, she realized as she sipped her coffee at the end, poking at the unbelievably delicious chocolate confection they’d brought that while she’d be unlikely to dine like this ever again it had truly been the treat she’d needed and the experience she’d wanted.
Having already accomplished three of the things on her list in one week she felt a bit tipsy with accomplishment, and then realized it wasn’t accomplishment but alcohol. She really was tipsy, unused as she was to drinking a new alcoholic beverage to compliment each course. She pulled out her list and tried to review it but found it was a bit swimmy. She certainly couldn’t drive home like this, she’d have to go for a walk until the alcohol wore off.
As she walked she thought back on all the books she’d read and loved. If only she had a way to track how many there were. She decided that she would start working on that piece of the list as soon as she could think properly. She continued walking, her head getting a bit clearer with the cold air and the positive ions coming off the ocean ahead of her. She wished for a moment she had cute strappy sandals she could remove and carry as she walked but settled for her clunky sneakers, which she was quite sure everyone in the restaurant had in fact noticed. She made a mental note to add “buy cute strappy sandals” to her list before sitting down in the sand and watching the moon bounce off the waves as they crashed into shore.
After awhile a rather large group of people, mostly teenagers, all laughing and being raucous walked past her heading towards the water. Amidst the laughing and shrieks she heard taunts of “no way!” and “yes I will!” and “you better go in too!” She watched, eyes ever wider as the teenagers began running into the water. It had to be freezing in that water! Those kids were…doing a Polar Plunge! Sure it wasn’t January first, but it was near enough to it. And she’d never be quite so inoculated against the cold as she was right now, her belly full of warm liquor.
Before she quite knew what she was doing she’d left her sneakers and purse on the beach and was running towards the water and the group of teens. She plunged into a wave just as broke into foam all around her and she realized she was screaming although her head was still underwater. She came up gasping for air, no longer screaming thankfully, and as soon a she opened her eyes she realized the sky had never held as many stars as it did right then.
In that moment she knew people could question her sanity all they liked but no one would stand by her graveside and say her life was a shame or that her life had been wasted.
The Bucket List
- Smoke a cigarette
Work in a coal mine
- Learn to ride a bike
- Read 1,000 books
- Fall in love
- See a black and white film
- Attend Shakespeare Festival
- Eat at a fancy restaurant
- Buy a house
- Get married
- Have a baby
- Participate in the Polar Plunge
- Visit Italy
- Buy cute strappy sandals
~~~That’s one hour~~~