Cumberland Times-News


January 12, 2013

Never skipped? You missed something

A friend of mine, whom I will call Jane because that is her name, and I were talking about what we did well as children. It was a short conversation. We only shared two physical traits as children, and one of them was that we didn't do anything very well at the time — especially physical-type stuff.

There was one thing though that we were inordinately proud of, and that was that we could both skip stones on top of water. I don't really remember how I learned, although having two older brothers might have helped somewhere. And I can still do it, although I can't walk to the water (streams or lakes ) very easily any more to skip the stones.

And two or three times now is my limit. All that bending over to pick up the stones, you know. Also there are little tricks of of crooking your back and disengaging the stone from your fingers at exactly the right time and angle. I think I might have to practice a little to get those back.

Of course, you have to have the right stone, and both Jane and I knew what the right stone looks like. I remember keeping my mouth closed when other kids my age, impressed by my skills, attempted to skip stones themselves. Think I told them what shapes to look for? Not on your bippy.

Skipping stones was one of the few reasons I had to be proud of myself when I was 7 or 8. I knew the right kind of stone, and I knew how to throw it. And I was not going to give up my hard-earned skill by carelessly sharing it with other kids. I have sometimes felt guilty about this selfishness of mine, when I could have brought such joy into other kids' lives by teaching them how to skip stones. But not very often. So many children grow up never knowing this important skill, and that's fine with me!

It's the only athletic prowess I have ever claimed. There are no Olympic medals in stone-skipping, which severely curtailed my attempt to make something of it. Jane confessed to the same problem, but after that conversation we looked at each other with new, appreciative eyes. We were both No. 1 stone skippers and nobody could take that away from us.

There was another kind of skipping that I did pretty well in those days, too. Just that, skipping. When you come to think of it, skipping is a pretty jerky way to get around — you have to be in a frame of mind that really does not feel too urgently about your destination, even if you've got one. (I remember frequently not having any destination clearly in mind, at the age of seven.) Still, eventually, skipping will get you some place which seems to fit the bill. Or you just stop skipping, which also does the job. I suppose you could ask if I also skipped my chores in those days, but no such luck.

Thinking about all this just now, I grew nostalgic and decided to try a little skipping, after all these years. Well, readers, I hate to admit it — but I couldn't get off the ground. The truth is — I have confessed this before — I was never a great one for physical exercise. (Except for hopscotch. I was very good at hopscotch.) I don't consider this my fault, but the fault of my body. Some body types are just better off standing still. Or, better yet, sitting still. I don 't know what kind of false physics it is that keeps proclaiming (in TV commercials) that "a body in motion tends to stay in motion." Not on your life it doesn't; at least mine doesn't.

Anyway, it makes no sense. Not that I know anything about physics, but surely it can't be true that a body in motion stays in motion. I know from experience that there is a little matter called "inertia," which, for me, conquers all other life forces. I know a lot about inertia. It is one of the things I do best. And where there is inertia, believe me there is no body in motion.

I hesitate to mention this, because it might encourage one of my readers (the old one, I know you!) to abandon your workout. Don't give it up. You need it. Honest.

But I don't. In my case, it is boring — you can't read very well when you are exercising. And it scares the dog. Honest. I did some (sort of) high kicks while Rusty was in the house once and he ran trembling for the door, making little squeaks of distress.

What's more, all those promises of adding six months onto the end of your life seem worthless, because where are many of us at the end of our lives? In a hospital or a nursing home, that's where.

I'd love to go back to skipping stones on a stream or a lake. I'd love to be able to go back to skipping, although onlookers might not enjoy it as much as I would..

I wonder if you can skip on just one foot, and cut the strain in half.


 Take my word for it.

You can't.

(It's OK, Rusty. Just go around me.)

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