These are the times that try men’s soles, and so, having fallen kersplat on a particularly unforgiving sidewalk near Starbucks the other day, I knew it was time to trade in my sneakers, which had slipped on curb-hugging icy snow, for winter boots.
A passer-by leapt out of his truck and helped me up. I thanked him. A woman asked if I needed an ambulance. No no. No no. And soon I was padding unsteadily on my way, having failed, once again, to give winter, icy winter, its due.
I don’t think any major damage was done, bruised ribs and a banged elbow being the sum of it, I think. When it comes to falling, the parachute-landing training the Army provided 60 years ago seems to stand me in good stead, though the older I get the less inclined I am to leap up exultantly upon hitting the ground. It’s more exulting now to stay in bed.
On a winter’s day like this, 19 degrees and windy, I would when in high school have looked forward to taking to the ice for hockey practice in the afternoon. I was the jayvee goalie, and I don’t remember that not being able to skate very well gave me the slightest pause — as most activities do these days, when even to shop for groceries entails a certain risk.
This tentativeness that the pandemic has brought on indeed has been a trial, more so when it comes to younger people, who ought not to be so constrained, though the pall has, I’ll warrant, been widespread. It is hard to put one’s life, one’s brief life, on pause. And yet if individuality is to be given free rein again some day, if we are again to leap up exultantly upon hitting the ground, it is clear that it will only happen through a collective effort, the need for which seems to me self-evident.
John Mahoney, the late actor, said that the Steppenwolf theater group in Chicago was always a collective effort, though one in which everyone was accorded his or her moment — a description, I think, of what society could be at its best.