Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Dog Days

From about age 3 until I was 11, I lived in south St. Louis, in the Shaw neighborhood on Botanical Avenue. Tower Grove Park was 1 block to the south and Shaw's Garden (now the Missouri Botanical Garden) was 1 block west. I remember Shaw's Garden before the Climatron and the Japanese Garden were constructed. After I transferred to Wade School (on Vandeventer) from Sherman School (on Flad), my friends and I cut through Shaw's Garden to go to and from school. Back then, it was free, although we did have to squeeze through a chained gate to get through on the backside.

Shaw's Garden had lots of interesting acreage to explore and Tower Grove Park was the site of many a pick-up baseball game. Tower Grove also had a pond ringed by stone structures great for climbing, the "do not climb on rocks" signs notwithstanding. We called the artfully piled rocks "the ruins" and spent hours playing make believe among the boulders. There was also some kind of Bi-State bus terminal at the end of my block. A large bush/tree in the corner of the property that had grown into a bower or sorts and that was U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, from which Napoleon Solo (my friend Mary) and Illya Kuryakin (I) launched many a mission. Mary's little brother Timmy wanted to play, too, but we always made him be Mr. Waverly, so he got bored pretty quickly.

It was a great area for kids in the late 50s and early 60s. In addition to the delights described above, we also rode bikes all over the neighborhood, wandered the business district on 39th Street with scavenged pennies and nickels, played Mother May I, Swing the Statue and Street Light Tag. On hot summer days, we put on our swimming suits and took to the backyard with the garden hose, where we pretended we were the hard-luck contestants from Queen for a Day (the garden hose was the "Applaus-o-meter" – whoever shot the stream highest into the air was the winner of gleaming white Amana appliances). My front porch was the site for endless games of Combat. Twilight was the time for fireflies and the Mister Softee music tinkling throughout the neighborhood long before the blue and white truck came around the corner or down the street.

The point of all this exposition is that I got plenty of activity when I was a kid. Later, in high school and college, I played organized sports like softball and basketball and even rugby. I rode my bike all over campus and beyond. I played tennis for hours and hours. I loved it.

I feel so trapped now, inside my prison of flesh. Memories of those glory days are bittersweet. Thinking about my brilliant career in high school and college sports pains me now. I am embarrassed to be so physically impaired that I can barely shuffle across the street to where my car is parked in a handicapped spot. Getting physically active seems an even more insurmountable goal than controlling my eating. I can't even wrap my brain around how I might change my physical situation. Gentle readers, have you any ideas for me?


  1. Marsha, since you called me a 'gentle reader', how nice, I'll try. I'd relate any job that looks too big to my area of weakness, clutter. Everybody's best advice is to start from today and if you don't get started, then start from today again. Climb that mountain step by step. So obvious right? Keep going. I think you are doing the best thing with this blog. I already have a great insight into how you got here. Another piece of advice I love came from a Canadian photographer who said people were always despairing about what to do about the mountains of slides and photos they had in disorderly mounds. How would they ever get them all organized? His advice was to stop thinking about those past pictures and simply start from this moment to put every picture taken in some kind of order, either labelled boxes or slide sheets, etc. Just start from today and in a year you'll see a year's worth of organized slides and photos.
    Nikole (her web name)

  2. Marsha -- Start small. Pick an amount of time or distance to walk that feels well within your limits and start doing that every day. After about two weeks, increase your time by a small distance or 5 minutes. Stick at that for at least a week. Etc. One other thing is to park a slightly farther distance from your destination than you might otherwise have parked. Not much farther, just a spot or two. Then, in a week or two, add a tiny bit of distance. I promise, in a month, you will realize you have gained some strength and endurance --- just keep it up, one day at a time. (and you don't have to be fast...just keep putting one foot in front of the other!) CW And be gentle with yourself...But firm (and I will take this advice for myself, as well)