I never knew about bucket lists until a movie came out with that title. Whenever people talk about their lists, traveling is usually involved.

Exotic.

Adventurous.

I thought about that.

I’ve been on a Mexican bus stopped at midnight by armed outlaws in the jungle. When they boarded, passengers shouted “Dos Gringos!” and pointed to Cliff and me. Ordered to stand, the bandits weren’t convinced by Cliff, but when their flashlights revealed my blue eyes and curls, they left. Immediately. “Gracias!” our fellow travelers shouted to us. Our presence thwarted the robbery.

One summer we rented a car and drove around Greece, only to discover that English pretty much ceased outside of Athens. I navigated with a Greek road map, recalling my college days of walking past the Greek letters on fraternity/sorority housing. We found our way from town to town surprisingly well.

I’ve seen China twice. The first time, I collected the daughter of my dreams. The second time, I stood in line with her, waiting to experience the animal of our dreams. As she sat down, one of the handlers shook his head. A six-month-old tired cub is a lot of wriggling fur with enormous claws that give you second thoughts. In perfect English, the handler shook his head, turned to me and said, “Uh-oh. Panda getting crazy!” We survived, all four of us.

So I’ve covered exotic and adventurous. To borrow Leon Russell lyrics: I’ve been a lot of places in my life and times.

What is it that gnaws at my heart, that would give me a sense of peace?

Daffodils and lily of the valley.

When I think of my little-girl self, I recall the flower beds at my Henry grandparents’ house. Hundreds of tiny white bells. I’d sit on the walkway and touch them, hoping for a fairy. When none appeared, I imagined them anyway, playing with me on those sweetly scented Sundays.

In the country, my Williams grandparents had a chicken lot abloom with thousands of daffodils each spring. I spent hours pretending that pirate chickens planned a kidnapping. The white daffodils were princesses. The tall yellow ones were gallant princes. The rescue took all afternoon.

Spring has never been quite the same again.

So I planned my own rescue.

I bought 175 assorted daffodil bulbs because I’ve experienced bulb failures. Surely some of these will thrive, although I know some will be duds and some stolen by squirrels. It was more digging than I’d bargained for.

After a conversation about lily of the valley with our neighbor Marsha, she arrived the next day with a generous tub of pips. When you dig beside an old house, you find surprises–like a 300-pound slab of sandstone. Cliff suggested I plant around it. Nope. I insisted it had to come out. He and I, with Maggie’s help, inched it, flipped it, and hauled it away.

Our first frost arrived last night. Everything is tucked tightly into the ground. Waiting.

Mark my bucket list: completed.

When I was in Girl Scouts, my mother and her friend served as leaders. They had studied the official scout manuals, especially the song book. We were a big, lively troop, and when our chattering exceeded the limit, my mother began singing her favorite, White Coral Bells. Table by table, we joined her, singing in rounds. Our soprano voices lulled the room, and mostly my mother, as we sang:

White coral bells upon a slender stalk,

Lilies of the valley deck my garden walk.

Oh, don’t you wish that you could hear them ring?

That will happen only when the fairies sing.

Next spring will set things right once again–with my memories of bells and fairies, chickens and daffodils.

I will sing for my little-girl self.

And I will sing for my mother.

9 thoughts on “Bucket List

  1. Karen! First, your Mexico bus story is frightening and hilarious. What a memory Cliff and you share.

    Second, as Dale said, those little things, the brief moments, those are equally cherished to the big ones. Getting caught in the rain, smelling pine on the air the morning of the first frost. Maybe I’ve grown, but the little things are what I cherish.

    Thank you for your post.

    ~Janet

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    1. I think the times we are all hoping to survive have turned us inward in a good way. The past, that we took for granted, holds golden memories we’d lost. We recall their power, hoping to bring that loveliness forward. As we head into winter, we’re feathering our present nests and the one that will emerge in spring. Literally and metaphorically. So, of course, you treasure the pine. (Keep writing through the snow, Janet.)

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  2. Beautiful as always! Thank you for sharing as I am racing around up loading this weeks assignments to Google classroom, your words slowed me down and helped me to breathe! It really is the little things! Happy Monday!

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    1. Thank you for taking time to read this in the midst of a hectic day. I simply cannot imagine the complications in the teaching world at present. You are all determined to keep spirits holding, if soaring is a bridge too far right now. I’ve learned that I didn’t need to be as busy in my world as I once thought was required. Yesterday I baked pumpkin bread and wrapped the loaves in ribbons to deliver to the few people we know here.

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  3. Here’s to simpler times and softer memories. Funny that I read this today just after I posted a comment that all I wanted for my birthday was one day back from fourth grade. Simpler times or at least they seemed so. I don’t have any sweet memories of interactions with my parents so I live vicariously in your post. Thanks. Here’s to sweet lives full of memories that touch the heart.

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  4. Yes, I saw that FB post’s similarity to my own decision to “plant” my childhood. I think the current atmosphere has reverberations that we may never understand. Of course you knew my mother’s generous spirit and spoke beautifully about her at the funeral. My father was equally splendid but with a deftly dry sense of humor. I’m happy to share my “charmed childhood,” as Cliff calls it.

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