We begin life built on the same blueprint as a Slinky. The younger the kid, the more pliable he is.
Six-year-olds shinny up door frames, prickly pear trees and the occasional cactus plant by some sort of trick of fluid elasticity.
Two-year-olds wriggle into corners where you didn't know corners existed and slide under spaces where you can't see spaces.
Babies are so flexible that they jam their chubby little feet into their chubby little mouths.
I no longer shinny up anything. Wriggling is restricted to pulling up and buttoning my pants.
Should I be crazy enough to lie down and try to aim a foot toward my mouth, you'd hear the clankety-sproing sound a Slinky makes, and I'd end up in traction for three months.
We, uh, more mature types lumber about with the same agility as a battered, rusty mailbox - only we're louder around the hinges.
I used to wonder why old people made so much noise getting up out of chairs. Now I know. And I'm a little tired of the way youngsters cover their ears as I oof and grunt and crackle my way to an almost upright position.
My chiropractor constantly reminds me that it's still possible even in my advanced middle agedom to do so. All I need to do is stretch, stretch, streeeetch.
I can do a fair amount of sagging, but the only thing that stretches is my imagination when I fantasize over the possibility of touching my toes. I've reached that golden age where I have to warm up in order to do warmups.
There was a time when I could roll out of bed and hit the ground running. Now I'd just hit the ground.
"Why are you still in bed?" my wife asks.
"To get out of bed?"
"Not yet. I'm stretching my toes. After they get loose - oof - I'll work on bending my knees. Then - ouch - I can begin the stretches so I can - ugh - twist - argh - over here so that maybe I can slide one leg - oomba - over the side of the mattress, and then"
"And then you'll get out of bed?"
"No. Then I'll take a nap before trying to limber up the other leg. I should be up and at 'em in another 45 minutes or so. Now hand me that tube of BioFreeze. I think I pulled an ambition muscle."
It's ridiculous. We used to glide like well-oiled machines. Now we're rusted.
"You should sign up for a yoga class," a young, well-meaning former friend told me.
Can you imagine a yoga class full of my ilk? It would sound like an orchestra of Rice Krispies.
I've studied some yoga stretches and as I near as I can tell, the goal is to bend yourself into shapes pretzels never thought of. We'd be good at that, only not on purpose.
Once we tried to force a limb or torso or appendage in such a manner, a great twanging would drown out the snaps, crackles and pops. That would be my muscles rolling up like window blinds. I'd crinkle into shapes that neither pretzels nor yoga ever thought of.
That's when my grandson - who is 4 and as pliable as a rubber band, only more flexible - would dive through the oddly shaped twists and turns like I was a heap of rusted playground equipment.
I just hope he doesn't push me down the stairs. My Slinky slunk off long ago.
---- Write Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.