When Was The last Time……?

| March 29, 2011 | Comments (0)

 

When was the last time you  skipped rope  or hop-scotched or played jacks? Do you remember how long ago it was that you danced the jitter-bug? Now come on, think hard and tell me when was the last time you did a jitter-bug? Betcha can’t remember!

So many small but important things in our lives that in sum make up who we are and what we do, seem to melt away when we think about the last time we actually did them – when it was, how it felt, where we were and whom we were with.

I often think about things  I loved but no longer do and can’t remember when I did them. I remember back in the mists of time, skiing in the Spring – it must have been May – in Zermatt,  Switzerland. We started early because the warm sun made the snow slushy by early afternoon when it felt like skiing in porridge and we were told that was the time when lots of bones got broken.

By noon we had stripped down, taking off our parkas and sweaters, skiing topless, the sun burning our bodies as we glided down the mountain in the cold air to the Italian side at Cervinia. After a lunch of wine and pasta, light-headed and sun-burned, we jumped on our skis again and hit the trail back to Zermatt before the pistes were no longer negotiable.  Hot sun and cold air – what goes better together? I only found that blissful combination one other time,  when I was standing on the Golden Gate Bridge gazing out across the Pacific towards Asia. It was so exhilirating I almost jumped! Now when was that?

How long ago was it when I was in Zermatt, or for that matter how long has it been since I’d been on skis? I just can’t remember. And those other things I loved to do.  When did I stop doing them? How I adored playing tennis. I was especially fond of playing on red clay courts in Vietnam. When I got back to the States safe from the war, I found red dust on my clothes and never washed them again, wanting to  savor and remember  the moments I had on the court with  my friends in An Loc. When was the last time I played tennis? It was years ago, but I just can’t remember how long it was.

I do remember when I gave up running. It was last year – 2010 – and my knees just told me they had had enough. So now I content myself with walking. I’m contemplating walking a tread mill slanted to a steep angle to mimic the hills of San Francisco. 

In the memory department, I  always think of my  good friend, the late Jack. When I was arrested and told that I could make one phone call, Jack was the person I called. And he was there the next morning to collect me as I stumbled out of jail. He took me to breakfast near City Hall and I ate like a pig. Hours earlier at 5 AM,  breakfast had been served in the jail cell. There were 30 of us fighting over ten baloney sandwiches and four cartons of milk.  Needless to say, the stronger, younger inmates got the breakfast and older jailbirds fasted, not out of choice. That was ages ago, but when?

Jack used to do so many things. He was always making fruit cake. We used make expeditions to the Lower East Side and buy candied fruit from the Jewish stores that specialized in candied lemon rinds and  little  candied green things,  God knows what THEY were….. The secret to his fruit cake was the rum and brandy he used with great abandon when he was baking, pouring lots of alcohol into the batter as he stirred. His fruitcake became famous at the Metropolitan Museum where he worked and Brooke Astor and Philippe de Montebello complimented him on it when he brought some cakes for the Museum Christmas party!

But then one day Jack stopped baking.  We had fished out the last pieces of fruit cake from his freezer and when we had polished them off, I asked him when he was going to bake again and he said he didn’t know. Then I wondered, “When was the last time we baked?” and he said he didn’t know that either. Unless you keep a diary, somehow things just fade away and after a while you can’t remember if you ever even did those things.

It was like that with Jack’s pottery too. He had made hundreds of beautiful pieces of ceramic ware – pots, dishes, cups and plates, even a long, winding  ten-toed Chinese dragon. And then one day he stopped his ceramics and after a fews years, he could no longer remember when he had last “potted”  or if he had even dabbled in ceramics at all. I could remind himthat he had made all those things because on the bottom of each piece he created, he had put his initials  – JJ – and the year.

Now I am about to head out into the blinding warm sunlight cut by sharp,  late March breezes. As I walk down the street, inhaling fresh cool air and soaking up  hot rays pouring on me from a blue sky above, I’ll probably wonder to myself: when will be the last time I’ll  do this?

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