Born with flat feet and, as an added bonus, ones that made a vast impression every step I took, it was unlikely that the descriptive “fleet of foot” would ever characterize my movement through life. As a youngster, I’m sure I won a foot race or two, but there are no trophies, medals or blue ribbons in the attic to show for it.
I did have a brief stint competing at high jump in junior high school, but it was essentially a low-point in my athletic career.
As I gradually matured, I eventually grew to achieve the expansive status of thoroughly filling the inside of a pair of size 17 shoes. Presently, was I to tiptoe onto a scale, basically gravity-bound, I’d be hovering somewhere in the neighborhood of just north of one-tenth of a ton. Nobody ever called me a lightweight!
Whenever I drummed up the courage to take the dance floor, it tended to be for songs whose beat was akin to “Hey Jude” by The Beatles, or simply put, slow!
No wonder that at 6-foot-5 and gradually shrinking, and with a Medicare enrollment just around the corner, the orthopedic experts have highly recommended I refrain from running and jumping much with the grandkids. There exists little incentive for a hop, skip and any jump, it seems.
A swift exegetical study of the terse children’s nursery rhyme, “Jack Be Nimble,” would reveal some patronage to a 16th century English pirate named Black Jack. One might question the merit of bounding over a candlestick, but research revealed, it turns out, that Jack had a history of avoiding capture by authorities following any unlawful acquisitions on the high seas. Quick as a wink, he dodged the light and hid from arrest.
Apparently, over time, they made a game of it, and was anyone to scale such flickering heights at a market or fair, good luck was promised to follow.
These days, however, and under close examination, I believe I may be experiencing a bit of a resurgence in the areas of nimbleness and quickness. In memory of the namesake of this historic poem, it could be, dare I say it, “in the cards” for me. I wouldn’t be at all shocked that others have even caught glimpses of an occasional “bounce in my step,” given the right set of circumstances.
It seems that whenever I now go to places where the masses tend to congregate, be they market or fair, I find myself noticing rather youthful exuberance. No one would mistake it for catlike quickness, but such displays of agility could easily be described as fluid.
Oddly enough, even though we’d all agree this pandemic has weighed heavily upon every one of us, it seems to have brought some unanticipated return of quick-twitch reflexes.
Who hasn’t, on multiple occasions, first extended a hand to greet someone and then deftly and artfully drew it back so as not to breach social distancing protocol? Almost at a subconscious level, I am able to then dodge the infraction and offer an elbow or fist bump in its place as if I intended such a gesture all along.
I can hardly keep track of the number of times I’ve gracefully pirouetted in the parking lot before entering some establishment having realized I left my face mask dangling from the rearview mirror of my automobile.
Making my way down some grocery aisle, I keenly catch, out of the corner of my eye, floor signage noting the “error of my ways” and seamlessly swivel, shopping cart and all mind you, in the other direction to safely “go with the flow.”
Early on in our global health threat, every store I entered was like its own version of “Supermarket Sweep” as I raced to be first to the toilet paper section, then the hand sanitizer, and finally, the household cleaners. These items, at the time, were more valuable and expensive as anything found in the meat department.
With the shortest checkout line clearly on the radar, and in hot pursuit, another quick glance downward, and I realize I’ve overstepped my bounds. The number “6” warning me, I perform a skillful two-step shuffle in reverse to await my turn.
As if I were a well-trained hospital nurse or doctor, I am easily diverted at a moment’s notice, to the left or right, to secure my hundredth application of hand sanitizer for the day.
Of no surprise, I’ve no plans to check my time in the 40-yard dash or measure my vertical leap, but there’s certainly been an uptick in my maneuverability.
Thankfully, along with Black Jack, I’ve safely navigated my way through the perils of treasure hunts, marketplaces and festivals. He did it with a patch over his eye, and I make it happen with a mask over my mouth and nose!
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at email@example.com