Pages

Thursday, June 22, 2017

"YOU SHOULD HAVE CLUNG TO THE BOAT!" (13)

Saturday, August 1, 1959, Cohasset to Stellwagon Ledge
     Left Cohasset at 10:45, Karen McKenna, Vonnie, and Timmy aboard.  Fine weather but dull day for the youngsters, who were in hopes of catching a tuna.  Late in the afternoon, on the way home, a whale was sighted.  Noisy spat took place between Vonnie and Timmy, each determined to be the one to steer toward the whale.  I settled the matter by taking over the steering myself.  Ed came up (he had gone below to take a nap) to see what was happening and the children excitedly told him about the whale.
     “Are you sure it’s a whale?”  
     “Yes, yes!” Karen cried. “We saw it spurt!”
     Arrived Cohasset 5:45.
Friday, August 7, 1959, Cohasset to Gloucester
     On our way with the Brewers at 6:00 p.m.  An hour or so out, Ed spied something that looked like a dead whale.  Sally was distraught when we approached within a few yards of the carcass.  “Eddie,” she said, “maybe he’s just playing dead!” When we got a whiff of the stench the poor creature was exuding, we left him to the sharks and seagulls and whale heaven.
     Arrived Smith’s Cove 8:00.  Cocktails, charcoal steak, followed by bridge.  Girls retired at 12:30, boys continued carousing until 1:00 or thereabouts.
Saturday, August 8, 1959, Gloucester
     Came to life around 9:15.  Sally got busy frying bacon and eggs and warming up coffee cake in Jayne’s trusty oven.  Whitey was elected to go ashore for the morning papers, took in stride the running of the outboard, even when he learned a few yards out that it is the gearless type.  Fearless, gearless Whitey, his long, dignified torso looking somehow incongruous in our little dinghy, returned from his errand without mishap.  After breakfast we cruised over to Eastern Point.  Soon after we anchored, we saw Browns’ boat, Kirkfield II, go steaming out of the harbor.  We yelled, “Hey Bill,” jumped up and down and waved our arms but got no response.
     We went ashore in our bathing suits, hoping Bill Markle might be there, awaiting us in his car.  (Whitey had run into him when he went ashore at Smith’s Cove and had suggested that Bill pick us up at the Yacht Club on his way to the beach.)
     Surprisingly, there was no welcoming committee of any kind at the Yacht Club.  Sally had written that we wanted absolutely no fanfare, and that’s what we got.  Then Whitey telephoned the Browns’ house and learned from daughter Barry that half of Gloucester had been trying to track us down last night and this morning.  Barry told us her folks’ station wagon was at our disposal and drove it over to us a few minutes later.
     Went to Good Harbor beach, had a trying time locating a parking space near what Sally called the High Society end of the beach.  Walked across the dunes a short distance and there they were, my dear, everybody, but everybody:  the Smiths, Alice Harmon, Bill Markle, Eddie (Edwina) Heyl, even Mr. and Mrs. Andrew N. Winslow, who are reputedly of such High, High, High Society that the ordinary High Society people doff their hats when they go by.
     Nancy Smith told us Jane had driven to Smith Cove at 9:00 this morning and attempted to rouse us. She also told us Jane was skippering Kirkfield II herself today, as Bill had to work.  This news gave me an inferiority complex, especially when Ed said, “Boy, I should be married to Jane!” 
     Returned to the Happy Days, played bridge for a couple of hours, then Ed and I took a nap while Whitey listened to the ball game and Sal exchanged gossip with passing yachtsmen.  Pulled up anchor, cruised back to Smith’s Cove.  Spotted Bill Brown standing on wharf.  Ed picked him up in the dinghy, a maneuver that required Bill’s perilous descent on a slimy wooden ladder.
     Chatted awhile with Bill, then Ed deposited him back on the wharf so he could go home and get his bride.  Jane looked especially pretty, Sal and I agreed, in her new “bouffant” hairdo.
     Had dinner at The Studio.  Not bad fare, but the general opinion in these parts is that the Lobster House is better.  After parting from the Browns, we played bridge.  And so to bed.
Sunday, August 9, 1959, Gloucester to Cohasset
     Up around 9:30, men went ashore for Sunday papers.  Sal took over the breakfast detail again.  As that is one detail I thoroughly dislike, aside from eating it, I will appreciate her thoughtfulness to my dying day.  Transferred ourselves to Eastern Point and back again and before we knew it, it was almost one and time to go to Smiths, who had invited us for cocktails.  As it was raining, Ed dug out all his foul weather gear and the four of us got into our costumes.   Sal was all in red, and with Ed’s visored yachting cap on, she looked like a little Dutch boy.  Whitey was all in yellow, and the only way I can describe the way he looked is to note that Sally burst out laughing every time she looked at him, all the way from the Happy Days to the Yacht Club. 
     Neglected to say that the Browns had left their tiny car for us at a parking lot near the Yacht Club.  The two rear seats were so miniscule that once Sally and I were wedged in, we couldn’t so much as giggle.  We could complain, though, and when the boys wanted to know what the fuss was about, we resolved to show them on the return trip.  We showed them all right, and what’s more, Sally was in the driver’s seat, driving in her silly-Sally-ish manner.  The only reasons the fellows’ hair didn’t stand on end was because there wasn’t room.
     Left for Cohasset around 3:30.  I rustled up soup and sandwiches that everyone seemed to enjoy, especially Ed “I’m-not-going-to-eat-a-bite” Malley.  Arrived homeport 5:45.
August 2, 1959
     Why is it that when I’m in one of my periodic mumpy-grumpy moods—one of those moods where I go to pieces if anyone even smiles at me—why does Fate choose to rain calamities on my head?
     Yesterday I was taking a late afternoon nap, hoping to lull my jangled nerves before Ed got home, when Timmy tapped on the door, stuck his head in and said, “I suppose you heard what happened.”
     “What happened?” I said grouchily.
     “Never mind,” he said, backing out. I’ll tell you when you’re in a better mood.”
     “Come right back here,” I said. “What happened?”
     “Kathryn’s blowing the whistle. I’ve got to go down to supper.”
     “Never mind supper, you come back here and tell me what happened. Whatever it is, it can’t be as bad as what I’ll imagine while I’m waiting.”
     Timmy edged into the room. It seemed he and Dennis were in the dinghy out beyond the first dolphin when a big boat went by and swamped them. They jumped overboard and began towing the dinghy toward the harbor, but Timmy decided they weren’t making enough progress. He climbed back in and began rowing. This was not a successful maneuver; with a farewell gurgle, dinghy and outboard sank to the bottom of the ocean. At this point, Tim said, he and Dennis peeled off their shirts and struck out for the nearest land.
     “Timmy!” I interrupted, recalling his father’s water safety rules. “You’re never supposed to swim to shore. You should have clung to the boat until someone picked you up.”
     “Mother dear, how could we cling to the boat when it was six feet under?”
     “Oh, that’s right,” I muttered. “Well, I never heard of anything so terrible. Don’t you realize you might have drowned?”
     “It was only about fifty feet to the point, Mom. We made it easily. While we were swimming, Dennis and I kept giggling nervously to take our minds off drowning.”
     The boys came back to the house, changed into dry clothes, and off they went to go skin-diving. While they were diving off the point they saw the harbormaster go by, shepherding a flock of rookies. They hailed him and asked his advice on how to recover the dinghy. Pat spent the rest of the afternoon helping the boys grapple for the sunken boat. It was finally hauled to the surface with only the oars and a gasoline can missing. Then he drove them to the Field-Brook equipment place to leave the outboard for an anti-corrosion treatment.
     While Tim’s dinner was getting cold downstairs, one last fact emerged from his narrative: the dinghy he and Dennis had sunk was not the old wooden one we keep on the dock. They had helped themselves to Ed’s fiberglass skiff on the Happy Days.
     “Wait till your father hears about that!” I said.
     Tearfully Tim volunteered to give up boating for the rest of the summer if I would spare his father’s blood pressure. I said he would have to face retribution like a man, but I agreed to prepare his father sufficiently so that Timmy would live through it.
     I prepared Ed by intimating that Tim had blown up the Happy Days at the very least. This is a good technique when mothers have bad news for fathers. The more you exaggerate, the more relieved the father is when he hears the facts.
     Ed took the news as gracefully as could be expected, moaning a bit but otherwise admirably self-controlled. Tim has to pay for the repair of the outboard motor and not look sideways at a boat for the rest of the summer.
     After dinner Ed went down to the yacht club to spruce up our boat, which he is chartering for a week. While he was gone the kids started playing ball with Chris Connolly and Carey Kilpinen. All of a sudden Timmy came roaring in, bellowing that Vonnie had bitten him. He was trying to get at Vonnie to slug her, and she was screaming that she had bitten him with good reason—he had already slugged her once. He shouted that she deserved to be slugged because she called him a cheater, etc. etc. Oh, it was lovely. My ears and nerves will never be the same again.
     I interrupted the shouting contest and ordered them both to their rooms, but they had another skirmish on the stairs, and once again I had to act as referee. I refereed them on the seat of their pants, then collapsed in the living room, a quivering, mindless blob. After I had recuperated slightly, I called to the children to ask if they had washed their faces and brushed their teeth. Timmy yelled that he couldn’t get out of his room, his door was stuck. It was only 9:00, but I knew if I went up those stairs I’d never make it down again. I gathered some magazines to read in bed.
     I kicked Timmy’s door open and slammed mine shut, not without thinking to myself, “That’s a fine example you’re setting for those children.”
     Fifteen minutes later there was a tap on my door. “Who is it?” (Snarl.)
     “Timmy. Can I come in?”
     “Oh, I guess so.”
     He walked over to me and said earnestly, “I’m sorry, Mom.”
     “All right,” I relented. “I forgive you.
     Here comes the good part. Timmy grinned and shook hands with me and then he leaned over and kissed me. That’s the first voluntary kiss I’ve had from David Timothy in a year.
     Tim is getting more and more like his father (kisses aside, that is). He has even cultivated a stunt that I’ve never seen anyone but Ed perform. He can manufacture tiny bubbles with his tongue and blow them out like soap bubbles.
~~~
     Getting Vonnie off to her 8:15 tennis lesson this morning was another trauma. No matter how early I get her up there’s always a last-minute scramble to feed Heidi, have breakfast, search for her racquet, find a matching pair of socks. At 8:00 she came to me with one sneaker and said she couldn’t find the other one.
     Before I’d torn out very much hair, Tim called drowsily from his bed that he thought he knew where the sneaker might be. He had borrowed Vonnie’s bike last night and had a vague feeling that somewhere in his travels, a sneaker had fallen out of the basket. He and Dennis had stopped to investigate a noise near Whitcombs’ and that was probably where the sneaker was.
     He was very good about hopping into his clothes and cycling off on his bike to look for the sneaker. I was sure he’d never find it, but he came back with it and Vonnie was only 10 minutes late for her lesson.
     Of such trivia is my life made up. It has its compensations, though. That kiss from Timmy did me more good than a carload of tranquilizers.
October 1959
     We had a fascinating time with Ed's new telescope yesterday. He found a praying mantis, set him down in the sand outside the terrace, and managed to center him in the lens of the telescope. A few minutes later, the mantis pounced on a bee.
     We all lined up and took turns watching him consume his victim, which he did like a chap eating an ear of corn. The bee never stopped moving, even after the mantis bit off his head. Nature in the raw was a little too much for Mother, who declined a turn at the telescope. She couldn't understand why the bee didn't sting his captor.
     Vonnie has been having menagerie trouble lately. First she got the idea of moving her goldfish from Ed's tank to a container on her bureau. No sooner was her pet settled in his new quarters than Timmy decided it was his goldfish, and she must put it back.
     "It's mine," Vonnie insisted. "Yours died, remember?"
     "No, yours was the one that died, that's mine."
     This monotonous tune was repeated word for word about ten times, changing only in tone and timbre. Vonnie was approaching high C when I stopped in with some Wagnerian outbursts of my own, such as: "Vonnie, why do you have to start these complicated projects just when I'm expecting company?"
     "All right, all right!" she cried, bursting into tears. "I'll put it back. Why does Timmy always have to get his way?"
     This was a good question. "Timmy," I said, "I don't care whose goldfish it is, let her have it, I'll buy you another one tomorrow if it means so much to you."
     Vonnie's feelings were hurt, though. She marched her goldfish bowl down to the playroom, intending to replace the fish in Ed's aquarium. She was trying to catch it with the net when it flopped into the sink and got wedged in the drain. In her effort to rescue it, she squashed it. Poor Vonnie was inconsolable.
     A day or two later she spotted Mckennas' cat, which they had given up for lost when they shut up the house. The animal was famished, Vonnie reported, and she was going to care for it until Mr. McKenna came down to get it. She got a box of sand and kept "Pooty" in her room so Dizzy wouldn't get jealous.
     The next morning Vonnie announced wearily that Pooty had kept her awake half the night. First she went fishing for Karen's minnow which we are also boarding, and succeeded in scooping it out onto the rug. Vonnie rescued it and put the bowl on the high chest of drawers where the cat couldn't reach it.
     Then her guest sat by the door, meowing continuously. When Vonnie wouldn't let her out, she used one of the scatter rugs instead of the sand box. That did it. Vonnie padded out into the night and deposited Pooty on McKennas' porch.
November 23, 1959
     I suggested to Vonnie that she go on a toy hunt for her Sunday School’s annual Christmas drive. She collected a carton full of discarded toys and games and spent the afternoon beautifying one of her favorite dolls. She gave it a bath, curled its hair, and brightened its lips with nail polish. She was moodily pressing a little organdy dress when I came upstairs to see how she was doing. Noticing that she seemed depressed, I asked her what was wrong.
     “Oh, I just feel sad, giving away something that you gave me, once.
     “But think how happy it will make some little child’s Christmas. And you still have lots of other dolls stored in the attic.
     “Oh Mummy!” she wept, throwing her arms around me.
     “It’s all right, honey,” I said. “You don’t have to give it away if you don’t want to.” 
     “But I do!  I’m crying because I feel guilty.”
     “Why should you feel guilty when you’re being such a kind, generous girl?”
     “Because I did something naughty today,” she blubbered, “and my conscience is bothering me!”
“Maybe you’ll feel better if you tell me about it.”
     We sat down on her bed and she tearfully confessed she had seen a pile of boxes in Ted’s room and, “Oh Mummy, I peeked at”—her mouth opened in a wide wail and her eyes squinched shut—“a prazzunt!”
     Oh, such an unhappy, guilt-ridden little girl. “Give it to Kathie, I don’t deserve it!” she sobbed.
     I finally convinced her that what she had done wasn’t so terrible. I wasn’t mad at her, just sorry for her.
     “Oh, I’m so glad I told you, I feel so much better!”
     Then she begged me to wrap her presents as fast as I buy them because “I just can’t seem to resist temptation!”
     The present Vonnie peeked at is a stuffed doll in a football uniform. She has already named him after Ted’s friend, Jan, who is her “idle,” as she wrote in a letter to Kathie.

No comments:

Post a Comment