From the Oct. 5, 1976 edition of the Gazette by Louise Aldrich Bugbee:

We live in a world of many things, of accomplishments and haste, and the only time we can call our own is the time that we have to waste.

I’m sure I knew this once. All children do, and that’s the finest thing about childhood and being young, the doing of things for no reason except that we want to.

Then there are so many things which must be done, or which we think must be done, that we become adults and grow old. We even plan our vacations and some of us even sign up for tours where one must do certain things at certain hours until the vacation ends.

We have a “social life” that makes demands, after our hours of earning a living are finished for the day. We join organizations and clubs and groups and keep date calendars. We set aside a little time for doing household chores and taking exercise. We go along for years and call this living.

When we retire and no longer punch a time clock most of us are so conditioned to not having any time of our own that we claim we are bored. Younger people pity us.

Just this week I decided to look forward to my second childhood with glee. Once again I’ll be free to waste time, and that’s a luxury and a joy.

Four unexpected days off gave me this insight. I’d had four days off, and filled them with all the things I’d scheduled to do. Then I worked one day and had four more days off. At first I reacted in an adult way. What must I do with the extra days? I hadn’t planned on them and was at a loss how to best use them. All this work and life planning had tainted me. A little left over fist childhood, or perhaps the first of the second childhood, saved me. I went to bed the night before my first unscheduled day off thinking, “I don’t gotta do nothin’ tomorrow.” Never slept better in my life.

Once I got over the feeling of strangeness and the idea that worthwhile people were always accomplishing something and busy people are happy people, I started wasting time, and nothing has ever been more fun or better for my health.

I don’t even remember what I did with the morning of the first day, that’s how much I wasted it. In the afternoon I brought the house plants back into the house. I’ve done that chore before, hastily and without much joy. This time I sterilized soil by baking it in the oven. Son Ed remarked that he didn’t mind a childish mother and I could play at making mud pies on my day off as much as I pleased but it really wasn’t necessary to bake them. Then I tried my hand at soil mixing. Never had time for that before but it was great fun. Washing the pots and taking time to think which plant would be happiest in which took many minutes but then I had time to waste, so why not?

While I was doing this I thought about the theory that house plants which are talked to thrive best and about youngsters running away from home. We read about love being the answer to plants and children. I thought so too until I had this time to waste. I’ve loved my plants before but never really had time for them. Children can be loved and neglected enough to make them leave home. The needed element is time. It’s only our time we can give to plants and children. The time we budget for other things is always given grudgingly and does little good.

Thinking is a great way to waste time but it has to be sort of specialized thinking. Wool gathering is best. I thought of things I hadn’t thought of for years, once I left my mind free to wander.

The next day I baked apple pies. That can be time consuming and a real drag when one has a certain amount of time to accomplish the chore. I may have taken the whole day to make two pies. I really don’t remember. That I could have bought pies that cost less and tasted better didn’t bother me at all. At the moment I liked to bake pies.

I studied a flicker for as long as he stayed on the tree outside the kitchen window, and chuckled when he flew away. For once in my life I had more time and was less impatient than one of nature’s own children. I listened to chickadees and thought about bird feeders. I do have cats, and wonder if it is fair to feed birds where there is some danger to their life and limb. Most predators, and my lazy cats still have the predator instinct, catch the very young, the old, the unfit. That is nature’s way and all my screaming that it isn’t fair will never change that. Still, would the food the birds got be worth my unhappiness if one was caught by a cat? Enough of that sort of thinking. It’s no thought for wasted days.

I’ll go back to work and when not earning a living go back to the habit of improving each shining hour as doth the busy little bee and all the worthy characters one reads about. I’ve come to one decision however. Once I retire, if anyone so much as hints that they will organize my life and provide activities for me in my old age, I’ll kick them in the teeth while doing the cancan and then stomp them while practicing the flamenco.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox