life list, the beginning

Like so many others nudged along by Maggie, I’m starting to compile a Life List. It’s been surprisingly hard, but not for the reason I expected… and the very difficulty of compiling this list makes me more aware of the blessings in my life.


Some Life List ideas come easily, but need to be more specific:
- Publish a non-fiction article.
edit, Feb. 2014: DONE. My first professionally published article, Tiding of Comfort and Joy, appeared on The Toast in December 2013; in the eight weeks since, I’ve sold them four additional articles articles and have every reason to think they’ll buy more!
- Publish a fictional story.
- Publish a novel or non-fiction book.
- Be a good aunt. Eleven nieces and nephews at last count, and those are just the blood relatives, not the near-nieces and -nephews (children of friends). Holy cow!

And here’s an example of how I’m making my list items more concrete, more detailed:
- Regain my fluency in French. Watch Les Diaboliques without needing the sub-titles.

Some are simple, but may surprise you:
- Get a driver’s license. I know, right?

Predictably, the most specific items are culinary:
- Eat a perfect lobster roll. The summer before he died, Dad was appalled to learn that I have never had a lobster roll, and he pledged to take me out for one. We never made it, and I still haven’t had a lobster roll. This summer, I will… and if I like it, I’ll keep trying them until I find a perfect one.
- Have a proper cream tea, with scones and clotted cream and jam and flowered porcelain and whatever else a proper tea entails.
- Have a full English breakfast, wherever, whenever.
- Have a full English breakfast. For breakfast. In England. With a hot cuppa. Mmm.
- Eat a croissant within sight of the Eiffel Tower.
- Ditto, a bagel and the Statue of Liberty.
- Learn to make a perfect cappuccino.
- Finish that cookbook.
- Make doughnuts!
- Master a fantastic pizza dough recipe. My current one is fine, but not the perfect windowpane dough that makes a chewy, authentic pizza crust.
- Learn to bake a lovely layer cake. For all my kitchen confidence and long years of experience, light fluffy cake is one thing I simply have not mastered.

Some are sartorial:
- Wear those high-heeled boots. I knew the heels were impractical, but they seduced me with their black leather beauty and bargain price. Days later, I was hit by a car, promoting those heels from “impractical” to “impossible.” I’ve never worn them. Yet.
- Find an occasion to wear my claret velvet gown. If I can’t find the occasion, I’ll make the occasion.
- Make and block a felt hat I would be proud to wear.

Some are vague, but that’s okay:
- Dance on a rooftop.

Some are silly:
- Learn how to give myself a really good haircut.
- Host a Star Wars viewing party: the three original films, as original as possible. (None of this “Greedo shot first” nonsense.)

Some are private:
- [redacted]

Some are easy to dream up, but are frustratingly out of reach, maybe impossible:
- Eliminate my chronic debilitating back pain.
So I break them down into smaller, more manageable items… items that belong in my daily life, but don’t belong on my Life List.

Some sound good, but just aren’t me:
- Make a quilt from sentimentally significant pieces of worn-out clothing.
- Finish a marathon.
(…yeah, those would be good Life List entries for someone else. They hold no magic for me.)

Some will probably drop off the list to be replaced by something more suitable:
- Learn to knit. Again. This time, knit something you’ll love to wear.

Some pop up in my mind and then immediately present themselves as opportunities to be grabbed:
- See Parliament-Funkadelic live in concert.

edited to add: spurred by my recent summer goals, I’m adding:
- drink 100 bottles of sparkling wine. I’ve set the bubbly counter to start about ten days ago. Since then, I’ve shared three bottles. That means 97 to go. edited to add Done and then some! I popped the cork on #100 just before guests started arriving for the second annual Champagne Jam (my now-traditional birthday party). (And when I hit 100, maybe I reset the goal to 1000.) edited to add: It’s on.

But here’s the funny thing. As I muse and ponder and research possibilities of adventures to put on my life list, I find that, hey, I’ve already done the thing I would put on the list. Here are some life list items I’ve already done:

- Reconnect with a distant friend, and find a way to make that reconnection less tenuous, more significant, and a daily part of your life. I love you, Elli.
- Spread a tall tale. Someday I’ll tell you about my niece L, my stories of growing up, and The Box.
- Spend a whole day blowing bubbles. At the end of that autumn day, I was chilled through and tuckered out, but oddly peaceful. I suspect the long hours of deep controlled breathing had an effect.
- Zip through the jungle howling like Tarzan.
- Go on as the understudy.
- Take part in a parade. The mother of my childhood friend L recruited me to toss candy from a van. It was before seatbelt laws; L and I tottered on a box in the middle of a slow-moving van, stuck out a an unfinished sunroof from our shoulders up, and pelted the crowd with hard candy as the metal seams chafed our armpits.
- This one is sobering but important: give a eulogy when the grieving mother asks you to. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I’m deeply grateful that I did it.
- Rehab a house. To my surprise, I had a knack for refinishing; my ex didn’t. His family-built Victorian owes every straight wall seam, every smooth plaster patch, and several working hinges to me.
- Have a cocktail named for me. In my Chicago days, a new local bar and an old local bartender were casting about for a signature summer drink. I stepped behind the bar one noontime and whipped up some planter’s punch, scribbling as I went; the next week, the bar distributed fliers advertising Aunt [Elsa's] Sweet Rum Punch.
- Drink a real Cuba libre (with old-fashioned sugary Coke) at a swim-up bar; optional: watch iguanas play overhead as you drink it. That trip to Costa Rica was a-okay, Mom.
- Make my own damn wedding feast (with The Fella’s help, and a cake from Gaoo). Phew, that was a lotta work… and completely worth it!
- Take part in a massive snowball fight. New Year’s Eve 1989, near midnight: a spontaneous snowball fight broke out in a crowded downtown intersection. Dozens of us pelted each other with snowballs, and the mounted police officers laughed and laughed.
- Become candy-competent! Once I understood the chemistry behind candymaking, I was freed to start tinkering with classic recipes to good effect. I’ve been teaching myself to make spicy and exotic brittles of a self-devised recipe, old-fashioned toffee, and I tackled the finicky task of tempering chocolate.

And that doesn’t even count the unpredictable, the fortuitous, the stuff that’s impossible to orchestrate, like:
- Meet someone you love more than you knew you could, who understands you inside-out and likes you anyway. Now marry him.

6 thoughts on “life list, the beginning

  1. I love you. JM and I were discussing life lists just last week so maybe this is a sign I should finally put it to paper.

  2. About the “Rehab a house” – we have a house and it needs some work and we don’t know how to do much. So when your ready let us know.

  3. Elli and Jag: thanks, it really was inspiring to write, and at least for the moment has helped to structure some goals.

    Jhawn: as you can see, I’ve already checked that one off my list! Maybe you can put it on your own life list. I’d love to see that house sometime, though!

  4. Sounds like you need to visit the UK sometime soon to satisfy those food cravings.
    We had a Star Wars viewing party at university once. It started with only a handful, but people kept stopping by once they overheard those distinctive sound effects and music. The original versions, obviously, on good old VHS.

    • Simon, I’m afraid that “sometime soon” is unlikely, but The Fella and I often discuss the wonderful topic of When We Go To England. It’s one of those things we both look forward to with quiet certainty.

      I, uh, think the Star Wars viewing party is a little more within reach at the moment, though.

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