For years, in the quiet hours before New Year’s festivities, I dutifully crafted a list of resolutions, usually on the flyleaf of a brand new journal. They ran the gamut from good thinking (“Be comfortable in your own skin”) to the painful (“Find a good man”) to the absurd (“Publish that book of poems.”) Almost without exception they became instead a list of failures, mocking me each time I opened the journal. Good God, who needs that to start the new year? Or any time. Eventually I gave up making resolutions (and became comfortable in my own skin and found a good man) — for that matter I gave up keeping journals: much time is wasted contemplating one’s own belly button.
When I turned 50, it seemed like the right time to make a bucket list, so I did. It’s a good list and it’s holding up well. But a Bucket List is like a Lifetime Achievement award, a road map for the things you’d like to eventually accomplish. Some of them are less practical for the short term.
Last week while making quiche I thought, “this year I’m going to teach myself to make a pie crust that is both dependable and delicious.” This thought was soon followed by another: what else would I like to accomplish in the coming year? The usual self-castigating cast of characters danced their way across my consciousness. “Lose weight!” they sang. “Write every day!” they crooned. “Get your thank you notes sent promptly!” rang out the chorus. No, no, no. Those are all worthwhile and virtuous. But I want something else. Something fun.
Like a bucket list, but smaller and more immediate. And thus, dear friends, we have it. The Tea Cup List. (And many thanks to my dear friend, Fran Menley, for supplying the name of my wonderful new list for the New Year.) I hasten to add here that I’m not posting this because I think that you are all so fascinated with what I’d like to do in the year to come, but because I think some of you might want to borrow this idea to make your own happy plans for the new year.
Larkin’s Tea Cup List for 2014
1. Gild the living room ceiling.
I bought the paint for this nearly two years ago. The previous owners of the house painted every surface of the living room a kind of golden ochre, in flat paint. The color works, but the texture is wrong.
2. Throw away all my old tired undies.
You know the ones. A little hole here or there, a stretched out elastic, that pair that was never comfortable. I can either buy new or go without.
3. Spend more time with friends.
Facebook alone is not good enough, especially when you compare it to a great meal together or time spent on a treasure hunt. For Trisch, who wrote to say “Come see me in L.A.” and Pam, who wants to share lobster rolls again on PEI, I’m intending to include you in this. Distances may be long, but the will is there.
4. Go riding once in awhile.
I miss horses. I don’t want to own one again, but I’d love to be seeing the world through the ears of a horse.
5. Buy a kitchen torch and use it.
This is actually related to something on my Official Bucket List, which was to make a Baked Alaska, or just eat one. In any case, having a torch is useful.
6. Take Ransom to the beach.
My Chesapeake Bay Retriever will be 11 in June. He needs another trip to the beach. We live in Ohio, so the beach is something to be pondered; though Lake Erie is not that far. There’s always his ancestral homeland, the Chesapeake Bay. Perhaps I can combine it with Number 7.
7. Go to Kitty Hawk.
I’m writing a book about Orville Wright, and I live in the Omphalos of Aviation history. But I have to go to Kitty Hawk all the same. I wish I could take the train there, as he and Wilbur did, but alas, those days are gone. I can however . . .
8. Take the train to the Library of Congress
The train goes from Cincinnati to Washington for less money than it costs to drive. I figure if I get a room at a hostel and don’t take a car, I can walk to the Library to do the research and I won’t be so tempted to waste time goofing off. Which brings me to 9…
9. Write Five Days a Week
I am a writer, goddammit. It is my job to write. This may seem to be one of the Mean Fairies of Resolution, but sometimes just defining how you’re going to do something is an enormous boon to doing it. Plus which, I get two days off.
10. Renew my passport, and go.
It makes me uncomfortable, almost itchy, that my passport has expired. Time to get a new one– let’s see, passport number five. Canada is not that far away.
11. Find a place to swim.
The old YMCA downtown has a wonderful pool, done up in 1920s Egyptian-inspired tile. Time to join. I bet my friend Martha will go with me.
12. Re-tile the fireplace in the living room.
Speaking of tile. Our house was built in 1913, as Dayton was recovering from a godawful flood. (And yes, it’s built in the flood plain; which strikes me as a wonderful faith and foolishness combined). Over the years it’s been both well-tended and utterly neglected. The previous owners bought it for a dollar from the city. They did a lot of wonderful work in terms of restoration, but some things were a miss– like the dusty pink bathroom tile they used on the fireplace surround. It’s designed to have tile, just not that tile.
13. Kiss more.
This is a philosophical position. I don’t have to be quite so prickly.
14. Explore more.
There are so many things left to discover ’round these parts that it still feels like we just moved here. It’s been nearly six years. Long past time to make time to see flea markets, abandoned watercraft, draft horse farms, haunted places, coonhound gatherings, caverns, dives, and museums of the obscure. I want to go to Henry’s and eat pie.
15 . Learn to make a pie crust that is dependable and delicious.