My brother-in-law rented a car in Connecticut and drove to his mother’s house in Pennsylvania.
He did an immediate turnaround, the two of them getting into her car, then doing the round trip back to Connecticut. This sounds like the beginning of a riddle: why would he do such a thing? But it makes complete sense.
It was Lucille’s dearest wish to drive around her old neighborhood in Connecticut—the one where she and my father-in-law raised their three children—and visit the friends who had shared the heavy lifting years of parenthood.
Orange is to Lucille Brossman as Plainsboro will some day be to me. She wanted her own car to drive the familiar roads, but she was frightened to drive the highways, hence the chauffeur arrangement.
Oh, and what a marvelous time she had, literally traveling down memory lane. Visiting her friends in Connecticut was at the top of her bucket list and she was ecstatic to be able to cross it off on the eve of her 90th birthday.
I recently was driving with my dad and mom, 87 and 83 years old respectively, when their car was stopped at the railroad tracks by the flashing gate.
We were in the northern New Jersey town of Dover. My dad gazed wistfully at the N.J. Transit train whizzing by and said, “Some day I’ll take your mom and ride that top level of the train west all the way to Hackettstown.”
I was taken aback by this humble vision.
“Dad, it’s something we can do any time you want, very easily, in fact, just say the word,” I encouraged.
It was a regular commuter train, and given all the negative publicity recently surrounding N.J. Transit, riding one of their trains anywhere was just about the last thing I would think anyone would want to do.
But what my dad was imagining was the glamour of what train travel used to be and still could aspire to be—a ticket to faraway destinations, adventure and even romance.
It was sweet and so easy to do—we will be checking that one off his list very soon.
However, I know my dad has a bucket list that goes beyond riding the local commuter train.
Recently I caught him listening to an online commercial for the best places to visit in Australia. He’s spoken of riding a riverboat down one of Europe’s grand rivers—top choice would be the Danube, which winds through, among other cities, Vienna and Budapest.
He would love to visit what used to be his farming village in the northern part of Korea, but he understands that it probably will not happen in his lifetime.
Which makes visiting North Korea— when the time is right—one of the top items on my own bucket list. Though I’d like to think of myself as too young to have an actual bucket list, it’s never too early to start planning, especially if you have a large number of items you want to check off before you check out.
Most of my wishes have to do with travel. In addition to visiting the land of my father’s people, I want to soak in Poland, especially Warsaw, and Majorca, an island off the eastern coast of Spain.
These two destinations have everything to do with my obsession with Frederic Chopin, my favorite composer, who was born near Warsaw, and then spent time in Majorca with his lover, George Sand, a French feminist and author, a cool and progressive woman way before her time.
I also am fascinated by the Civil War and would love to do a comprehensive tour of the battlefields from north to south and everything in between.
My other historical obsession is General Joshua Chamberlain, who was a Union hero at the Battle of Gettysburg. Upon his return to civilian life, he taught at Bowdoin College in Maine, became its president and then also served as governor of that state.
The other items on my bucket list have everything to do with what I consider to be my first important identity.
I started dancing in elementary school and continued in musicals through high school and in a campus dance troupe in college.
I dreamed of dancing on Broadway, but the lifestyle simply did not jive with my scholarly pursuits and I did not have the actual talent.
But now, there’s nothing more I would like to do better than become a world-class tap dancer. Hah! And win competitions! That would be the biggest hoot in the world—a former egghead reporter/corporate communicator/suburban mom tap dancing her way to fame and glory.
At the same time, I’d love to learn how to moon walk in a way that would conjure up comparisons to the inimitable Michael Jackson. And hip hop.
I want to add that to my repertoire and become the baddest coolest hip-hop mama ever. Suburban moms can dream, right? About a whole new identity just around the corner.
Once upon a time my bucket list would have included skydiving, cliff diving, bungee rock jumping and other similar daredevil pursuits.
But I want to be around for a long time so I can enjoy my children and grandchildren.
And being the consummate list person, it’s on my bucket list to actually check off everything that’s on it. That would be most satisfying of all.