For decades I bolted out of bed. Now I return from dreamland and marinate in random thoughts awhile. Thoughts like, “I never ran so fast in my life.” That one after a fleeting memory of being in the woods with my rowdy Vermont cousin and his BB gun. Guns were foreign to a suburban girl. My cousin would aim at knots in trees, or critters like chipmunks whereupon I’d yell, “NO!” and give the barrel a shove. Surely kids went blind from those things. Nice toy.
Point is, he once levelled it at a distant object, inhaled, exhaled slowly and murmured, “RUN.” I whispered back what is it? KAPOW. “A hornet’s nest,” he replied. I never ran so fast in my life.
Until the time in our teens when a friend and I were out in the snow at night, as kids were then allowed to be. We thought it a good idea to walk down the hill into people’s back yards. No one had shades drawn. It was pretty interesting. People do a lot of ordinary things at home wearing bad or little clothing. A large, angry man barreled out in his skivvies. “HEY YOU!” I never ran so fast in my life.
When I told my Vermonty college friend, 53, about the bee’s nest, he said without pause, “That’s good fun.” He said it never loses its charm, watching people’s faces as he throws a rock at a nest. Astonished, I asked when was the last time he did this. “Last year.” He’s in better physical shape than most, but still. Well, that’s Vermont for you.
The running memories reminded me of Meatballs, wherein Bill Murray’s pathetic, ragtag camp summer camp unit would certainly fail in a footrace against a rich, athletic unit. For years I’d remembered Murray’s soliloquy as stirring a chant of “We’re number two!” I was wrong. It is, in fact, this chant: “It just doesn’t matter!”
There’s something to be said for lying around thinking thoughts and for enjoying the race when you’re in no position to win. Ours is a competitive society. While I’m all for striving for excellence, and snub the modern “Everyone gets a trophy,” there’s a comparative element that makes people unhappy. Unhappiness does not serve the cosmic soup on Planet Earth.
For example, without sitting on boards or known committees, I have contributed in ways that won’t yield a respectable obit. But my eulogy should be good when I go. And I’d be much happier driving my humble car to a drafty cabin, laughing my face off with my ham-handed monkey boy, than riding in a Maserati with Joe Bucks to an unhappy McMansion and winging dysfuntionally to St. Bart’s. I’m not saying there are no happy McMansionite sports car enthusiasts who totally dig their hedge fund jobs and (accomplished!) families and fancy vacations—because there are—I’m just saying if I had to choose between low-end fun and pricey misery. And that you shouldn’t compare yourself and feel less than. What good in that?
Our high school field hockey team was lucky. We were Title IX girls whose beater, Girls Scout tunic-like uniforms were replaced by smart kilts with turtle necks. As the blue-collar neighbor of rich towns, we’d had no hockey program in middle school thus were three years behind our competitors. But we had mettle and, in spades, humor. On the game bus we’d recite hilariously outdated sexist cheers and make barn noises (our winning football never allowed to speak on their bus). I’d yell during scrimmages to Meg, “Do the crumple!” and she’d collapse realistically, just for kicks. We didn’t have the best record—how could we—but we had the most fun. We somehow made it to sectionals, and lost, but we felt like winners. We’d come a long way, baby.
Go for the silver. Hell, go for the bronze. Everyone can’t win, for God’s sake. Do your best at things you enjoy. Produce a good eulogy. In my rule book, s/he who laughs the most wins. Laughter is money. Good day.
Best Bumper Sticker of Fall, Seen at Farmer’s Market:
YES WE CANNED.