Before the Hollywood movie coined the phrase “bucket list” mine was already started. I made it in my seventh grade year.
I was a geeky, mousy, bespectacled girl with crooked chipped front teeth and clothes a decade out of style. Just the kind of kid who bullies target, and that year, I was unfortunate enough to have the locker right next to the biggest bully of them all.
Chuck was a handsome, athletic guy whom everyone admired and feared. I usually cut him a wide berth. In the fourth grade, he punched me in the head so hard I saw stars and had a headache for days. After that, I learned to keep my head down and my mouth shut to avoid Chuck and his friends, but then fate placed us side by side in the seventh grade locker room.
Every day I was subjected to his taunts and his physical threats. I tried ignoring. I avoided going to my locker. I did everything I could to keep from antagonizing him, but three times a day, there we were, side by side, a disaster waiting to occur.
Finally, one day in the spring, I went to get my books for the afternoon session. “Get out of my way, Molesteeth,” I heard Chuck say as he pushed me sideways. I stumbled and fell against the open locker door, slicing my arm open on the cold gray metal.
“Goddamn it, Chuck, why don’t you leave me alone!” I screamed into the now thinning crowd of students. I went off to class, wiping the blood from my arm.
Later that day as I was sitting in my Language Arts class, an announcement came over the intercom. They were calling the names of people who were to go to a meeting of the student discipline committee. I was stunned when they called my name. Mrs. Carlson glared at me and I felt the mocking eyes of my other classmates as I gathered my books and slinked from the classroom.
When I arrived, Chuck and the rest of the student government from the 7th and 8th grades sat behind a table. They were to be my judge, jury and executioners. I was told the nature of my crime. I was to be punished for swearing in the hallways. Since I rode the bus home and could not do after school detention, I would spend my lunch hour in the library for two weeks.
I was ashamed and embarrassed as I left the room, but on another level I was relieved. Two whole weeks without having to hang around the play ground, alone and friendless. It would be a vacation for me. Two whole weeks to read. I couldn’t think of anything better.
While serving my detention I discovered in a closet in the library filled with stacks of old National Geographic magazines. I spent my days, flipping through them, discovering all the wonders of the world outside my tiny rural home. They sparked my imagination and fueled my desire to get away from its limiting boundaries. I saw for the first time the treasures of King Tut’s tomb, the grandeur of the Parthenon, and the mysteries of the Aztec, Mayan, and Incan cultures. I read about Africa and the Far East and I saw people of different colors than my own. I wanted to get to know them first hand, and I promised myself I would get there someday. I made myself a list: The Pyramids and the mysterious Sphinx in Egypt, Teotihuacan and Chitzen Itza in Mexico, and Macchu Picchu in Peru. I would see those places before I died.
A few weeks later in Language Arts class, Mrs. Carlson suggested we draw a picture of a place we wanted to go. I took out my colored pencils and I drew the Pyramids standing solid and red upon the sandy banks of the Nile. As she came by to see how we were progressing, she leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Delores dear, igloos are white.” I looked up and realized that she a totally ignorant product of my home town. Not only did she not recognize the Pyramids but that a whole year had gone by and she did not know my name.
Years passed without me reaching my goals. There was school and life to deal with and my husband didn’t seem to share my dreams. After we divorced I was looking for something to do. I was looking for a singles group and found the Single Boomer’s Social Club on Meetup. They seemed to be doing a variety of activities, so I applied for membership. As part of the application process we had to write our “Bucket List”. All these memories and the still burning desire to see the places I had first discovered in detention came back and I wrote them down: Egypt, Greece, Italy, Macchu Picchu. And when the leader wrote back that Macchu Picchu was on her list too, I joined the group. Mary Ann and I became friends and on October 21st we left for Macchu Picchu.
We flew to Lima and spend a days in the capitol of Peru. We visited grand old homes and visited a Paseo horse ranch. We watched a display of these beautiful horses followed by a delicious meal of Peruvian foods. Then we traveled up to Cuzco to get acclimated to the altitude for a few days. We traveled by bus to the Sacred Valley of the Inca and visited the famous market at Piasic. The following day we traveled to Ollyantambo to see the Inca fortress there. I walked up to the top for a view of the lovely valley and walked the beginning of the Inca Trail. The following day we boarded a train and to one of the most popular World Heritage sites.
After arriving in Aques Calientes, we took another bus up thirty switchbacks to Macchu Picchu. I stood where the ancient Inca’s stood and I marveled at the stone terraces, carved with primitive tools and set without mortar, which have stood in spite of the elements for thousand years. I breathed the air they breathed and walk the stone walk ways they walked. I climb as high as my body allowed in the thin atmosphere. When I could go no higher I whooped allowing my voice to echo off the mountain sides. I thrilled at achieving my goal.
While I stood there, I was grateful for Chuck and Mrs. Carlson, because without them, I would not have become the person I am; the one who sets goals and takes chances. The person who travels and learns. The woman who continues to grow and work toward achieving those bucket list goals. The human being who gets to whoop from mountain tops.