Julia Child Way of Dying (And Living)
By A.H. Cemendtaur
best lessons are often learned in the worst of times.
Anytime I am removed from books is a bad time for
me and that summer, when I found myself in New York,
was definitely one of the worst episodes of my life.
Renting a room in Jersey City, I was working at
a factory in Secaucus during the day and putting
in evening hours at a Roy Rogers, as I tried to
save money for school.
My landlord had removed the bed from my room because,
at the time of the rental agreement, I refused to
pay the additional $25 a month for it. I slept on
the floor. Late at night when I had turned off the
light and lay on my sleeping bag, mice would come
out of the various holes in the wall and scurry
about around me. I remember my first night in that
room, when the mysterious whisking sounds had me
baffled. I couldn’t figure out what it was.
When I turned on the light, I caught a glimpse of
a tail quickly disappearing in a hole. Rats! I debated
with myself whether to pay the extra $25 a month
for the bed, but then decided to test out the mice
and see how brave they were. So I switched off the
light and went to sleep. It turned out that the
mice were pretty timid; they kept themselves at
a distance from me. We set up our boundaries. The
sleeping bag was my domain; every other place in
the room belonged to the mice.
But it was not living with the rats that bothered
me; it was the loneliness that was tormenting. I
was surrounded by people whose language I didn’t
speak. They would talk for hours and their conversations
wouldn’t go beyond their immediate materialistic
needs: their cars, their clothes, their shoes. You
could scour the whole neighborhood and you wouldn’t
find a book in any of the houses.
So there I
was living in a city that I couldn’t develop
a friendship with, longing to go back where I had
come from. But I could not escape. I had to put
in my time.
One day I was on a train that was passing through
Bronx. A man got up from his seat and stood by the
door to get off at the next station. he train pulled
into the station, the door opened, and the man disappeared.
I noticed that the departing passenger had left
his New York Times at his seat. I got up, walked
to his seat, and picked up the newspaper. I cursorily
turned the pages until my eyes stopped, fixed at
a column by Ann Landers. That day Ann Landers had
quoted “The Station” by Bob Hastings.
“Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow is a dream.”
Cherish today. The message was so simple and yet
so profound that it moved me. It set me free like
nothing else has, over the course of my life. Tears
started rolling down my cheeks. Conveying Hastings’
message to me, Landers had taken me from the abyssal
pit of misery to the zenith of fulfillment where
I could kiss God’s forehead.
I felt emancipated. And in that moment of lightness,
I constructed my own philosophy about life. I understood
my incapacity to control the ticking of time --
I am always taken to the next moment whether I plan
for it or not. I realized the importance of setting
goals; that milestones far off in the future that
you want to reach, that shimmering pillars on the
distant mountain give a purpose to the journey,
your life. But I decided that the long-term goals
shouldn’t be the only places where, once you
get there, you unwind and celebrate; that there
should be short-term goals and that there should
be daily celebration of the little joys of life.
That living today to its fullest doesn’t mean
living foolishly. That rejoicing in the present
means doing today what you wish to do when you’d
retire one elusive day. That I need to pursue my
heart’s desire everyday and then one day just
quietly die in my sleep. That’s the Julia
Chi ld way of dying (and living).
Here is “The Station” by Bob Hastings
that Ann Landers had copied in her column; savor
its timeless wisdom and apply it in your life -
don’t eat too much ice cream.
Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic
vision in which we see ourselves on a long journey
that spans an entire continent. We’re traveling
by train and from the windows, we drink in the passing
scenes of cars on nearby highways, of children waving
at crossings, of cattle grazing in distant pastures,
of smoke pouring from power plants, of row upon
row of cotton and corn and wheat, of flatlands and
valleys, of city skylines and village halls.
But uppermost in our minds is our final destination--for
at a certain hour and on a given day our train will
finally pull into the station with bells ringing,
flags waving, and bands playing. And once that day
comes, so many wonderful dreams will come true.
So restlessly we pace the aisles and count the miles,
peering ahead, waiting, waiting, waiting for the
“Yes, when we reach the station, that will
be it!” we promise ourselves. “When
we’re eighteen...win that promotion...put
the last kid through college...buy that 450 SL Mercedes
Benz...pay off the mortgage...have a nest egg for
From that day on we will all live happily ever after.
Sooner or later, however, we must realize there
is no station in this life, no one earthly place
to arrive at once and for all. The journey is the
joy. The station is an illusion--it constantly outdistances
us. Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow is a dream.
Yesterday belongs to history, tomorrow belongs to
God. Yesterday’s a fading sunset. Only today
is there light enough to love and live.
So, gently close the door on yesterday and then
throw the key away. It isn’t the burdens of
today that drive men mad, but rather the regret
over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow.
So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles.
Instead swim more rivers, climb more mountains,
kiss more babies, count more stars.
Laugh more and cry less. Go barefoot oftener. Eat
more ice cream. Ride more merry-go-rounds. Watch
more sunsets. Life must be lived as we go along.
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