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Sunday, July 23, 2017

"GRANDPA AND TINA ARE NICER THAN YOU!" (7)

Friday, August 16, 1957, Cohasset to Gloucester
     Daddy, Mummy, Vonnie, and Timmy left Cohasset around 6:45 p.m..  Still hadn’t settled for sure on where we were going.  Correction: Ed thought we had settled on Provincetown.  I began to grumble that PT was a long haul considering we were starting so late, and he and I hadn’t had any dinner.  I thought we should go to Gloucester, which was only a two-hour trip.  “Gloucester it is,” Ed said agreeably.  Timmy was disappointed—he had been counting on having breakfast at that special Provincetown restaurant with those special hotcakes he so enjoyed last summer.  I promised him he could have hotcakes in Gloucester, too.
     Arrived Gloucester around 9:00, couldn’t find a spare mooring, so we anchored near the Lobster House Restaurant.  Delicious odors wafting our way from the kitchen increased our appetites.  Ed started the charcoal grill and within an hour we sat down to broiled hamburg, boiled potatoes, green beans.  The children, who had been fed at home, were hungry again, so I gave them each a hamburger.  They watched television and stayed up late, late, late!  I was indulgent about this because I figured maybe they wouldn’t get up so early, early, early!
Saturday, August 17, 1957, Gloucester
     The children were up early, early, early.  It was a lovely morning, so the first thing they did was close the blinds in the deckhouse and turn on the television.
     I was making up the bunks after breakfast when I suddenly remembered it was my birthday.  Then I was indignant because no one else had remembered it.  I decided I would not drop any coy hints; I would ponder the matter quietly and see how long it took them (my husband and the father of my children) to remember.
     Went ashore, walked around town, shopped for groceries, turned a deaf ear to Timmy’s pleas for machine guns and tanks.  (“Grandpa and Tina are nicer than you, they always buy us things.”)  Walked and walked and walked till we found the place where we bought the wonderful lobster meat earlier this summer.  The lobsters were still steaming in the pot, so we said we’d wait.  Saw a case of lobster bodies on ice.  “How much?” “Ten for a quarter.” A bargain--in Cohasset they were five cents each.  Devoured lobster bodies while we waited for our order to finish steaming.
      Headed for the Stellwagon Ledge, looking for tuna.  Vonnie and I were alone on the flying bridge when she suddenly asked me what I was thinking about.
     “I was thinking about you--and how your swimming coach said you were unusual.”
     “Were you really?”
     “Yes, I was wondering whether Chuck intended it as a compliment or not.”
     “Oh, it was a compliment,” Vonnie assured me.  “Isha says I’m unusual, too.  She thought I was unusual when I weeded the garden for your bir— ” Then she gaped at me.  “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you!” she sang at the top of her lungs. 
      Shh,” I said.  “I don’t want Daddy to know.  I mean I want him to remember by himself.”
      Timmy had just appeared topside as Vonnie was singing. 
      “Happy birthday, dear me-ee . . .” he sang happily. 
     “Shh.,”said Vonnie.  “Mummy doesn’t want Daddy to know it’s her birthday.”
     “Oh, is it your birthday, Mummy?  Happy birthday!”
     Vonnie worried all afternoon.  She kept asking me what I was thinking about.  "I’m afraid you’re feeling unhappy because Daddy didn’t remember your birthday.”
     “He’ll remember, don’t worry.”
     Every once in awhile Timmy would lean over and whisper in my ear, ”Did Daddy remember yet?”
     At the Stellwagon Ledge the Captain consulted the Loran.  “We’re two hours from Cohasset, two hours from Gloucester, and three hours from Provincetown.  Where do you want to go?”
     The children and I agreed unanimously that we didn’t want to go to Cohasset.  We were thinking favorably of Provincetown until I asked Ed how the TV reception was there.  Gloucester was better, Ed said, so that settled it.  The children could spend the evening watching TV instead of pleading to be taken to the movies.
     Returned to Gloucester around six.  Anchored at Eastern Point so the children could swim.  While Ed and I were having a drink, they scooted around the harbor with the outboard.  I decided I’d better give Ed a clue to the big secret for the children’s sake.
     “I’m giving your dad a book for his birthday Monday,” I said.
     “Oh!” he said.  “Happy birthday!” 
     At the dinner table everyone sang Happy Birthday to me-ee, and I said it was the nicest birthday I’d ever had.

Sunday, August 18, 1957, Gloucester to Cohasset
     Timmy still had his heart set on having hotcakes at a restaurant.  We went into Harbor Cove where there was a small public landing and tied up the boat.  It appeared there were no restaurants open on Sunday, but at last we found a diner open for business.
      The hotcakes were excellent.  Ed ordered scrambled eggs because of his diet, but when the children couldn’t finish their hotcakes, he helped them out.
     Stopped at paper store, hoping to get a New York paper since the Boston papers were still on strike.  Waited in line for quite awhile, were turned away when the papers ran out.
     Back to Eastern Point for one last swim. 
     Headed for home.  Ed and I were topside reading, the children below, taking turns steering.  “I wish they’d pay attention,” Ed said irritably, looking up from his book.  The course became so erratic that he blew the horn to summon our careless young pilots.  He blew and blew. 
     “Maybe they both fell overboard,” I said anxiously.  “I’ll go look.” 
     Then Vonnie’s blond mop popped up in front of us.  “What are you blowing the horn for?”
     “You and Timmy—which one of you is steering?”
     “Neither.  We’ve been eating lobster bodies.”
     A half -hour outside of Gloucester we spotted a shark. 
     “Would you like to try to spear him?” Ed asked Timmy.  Oh boy, would he!  I steered and took movies.  I hope my movies are better than my steering—I got too far to the right of our prey and before I could correct my course, he saw us and dove. 
     “Timmy was so excited he was shaking all over,” Ed said.
     Saw more whales.  One was only about 25 feet from the boat when we first saw it.  I was out of film and the darned camera wouldn’t open.  Even Ed couldn’t get it to open.  By the time he did, the whale was far away.
     At the northwest corner of the Stellwagon Ledge we encountered several cruisers, some of which had tuna flags flying, others in the middle of catching tuna.  “Here comes Alden,”Ed said, pointing.  Alden excitedly called to us that he had had a big fellow on, but he had broken the butt right off his rod.      
     It was early yet, only around two, so we had plenty of time to try our luck.  We located a school of tuna and ran through it, in front of it, circled it, followed it, tried everything short of jumping in after them.  It was useless.  As far as those tuna were concerned we had a bad case of B.O.
     “I’m not sure that chasing after the schools is the way to do it,” Ed said.  “Some of these guys seem to be catching them without sticking close to the schools.”
      “I should think it would scare the fish,” said Timmy, “going right through the middle of them all the time.”
     At that moment Vonnie yelled, “Tuna!  Daddy, there’s a tuna on our line!”  Then she yelled again.  “There’s a tuna on both lines!”
     Zip, zip, zip, the lines were ripping out of both reels.  Before Ed could scramble into the cockpit, one of the lines went slack.  It was just as well; as it turned out, we had our hands full coping with one tuna.
     Ed tightened the drag and turned the rod over to Timmy, who sat in the fishing chair and began reeling.  All of a sudden, disaster.  The ferrule on the reel was loose and the reel fell off the rod.  Ed abandoned the wheel, grabbed a pair of vise-grip pliers.  I abandoned the camera, grabbed the wheel.  When the reel was reunited with its rod, Tim began reeling in again. 
     “Oh, he’s gone, Dad!” he said sadly.  Zzipp!  “Oh-oh, he’s not!  Back up, Dad!”
     It was “Back up, Dad, turn left, Dad, turn right, Dad, faster! slow down, Dad!”  Timmy was in his glory; his sister was unhappy.
     The dinghy on its davits was very much in the way; it had to be let down and tied alongside the bow of the boat.
     “What time is it?” I asked, so we would be able to tell the world how long Timmy fought his tuna.
     “Time to eat, Vonnie said crossly.  “I’m hungry.”
     I went below and found it was 3:00.  No wonder she was hungry.  I warmed up Ravioli on the stove.  “Poor Timmy must be hungry, too.” I said.  “How about feeding him, Vonnie, and I’ll take movies.”
     Feed him!” Vonnie recoiled as if I’d asked her to kiss him.
     “Okay, then I’ll feed him and you take movies.” I thought she would feel better if she made herself useful and a part of the excitement, but nothing would make Vonnie feel better except changing seats with Timmy. 
     Disaster struck again.  The butt broke off the rod and Tim was left with just a stubby metal end, not long enough to fit into the rod-holder.  For awhile Ed sat in the fishing chair, holding the rod tightly while Timmy sat next to him in the canvas chair, winding like mad whenever Mr. Tuna wasn’t streaking away from us.  I ran the boat; took movies; comforted Vonnie, and did a poor job of all three duties.  One time when Ed yelled at me to put it in forward, I didn’t move quickly enough.  The tuna dove under the boat but by some miracle didn’t get fouled up in the propellars.
     Finally Ed asked me to hold the rod for Tim.  He was going to try to figure out a way of rigging a new handle for the broken rod.
     What he came up with was another reel with a metal handle just big enough to fit over the broken end.  He lashed the two reels together with a length of rope.  Once again Timmy started reeling.  “Dad, it’s gone!” he wailed.  This time it really was gone.  Timmy had him on for over an hour and a half.  He has a lot of pluck for a ten-year-old.
Saturday, August 31, 1957, Cohasset to Provincetown
     “If this weather would only last . . .” Ed said as we rowed out to the Happy Days at 7:30 a.m.
     “It would be incredible,” I concluded.  We were on our way to Provincetown, where the weather never lasts.  Already aboard were Ted, Jimmy Wallace, and Robby McGoodwin, who had slept aboard all night.  Ed and I had expected the boys to be pacing up and down as they impatiently awaited our arrival, keen to get going after those tuna.  But there was nary a sign of life until we yelled SHIP AHOY! fifteen or twenty times.  The point was, we could use some help with the case of coke and the box of groceries.  At last they came stumbling and grumbling from their lair and gave us a hand.  Teddy was utterly disgusted when he saw the armful of his clothing I was carrying.  Mother,” he said, “I brought dungarees, I brought underwear, I brought pajamas.  What do you think I slept in last night?”
     “Well, I saw you hadn’t brought shoes or sneakers, so I figured you hadn’t brought anything, except maybe your diving gear.”
     The three of them had spent the night in the forward cabin, which is barely big enough for two full-grown Lilliputians.  “There were sheets and blankets aboard so that one of you could sleep on the couch,” I said..
     “But no one wants to be left out of the gang,” Ted said.
     We were under way by 8:00.  It took me thirty minutes to prepare a breakfast that took the boys thirty seconds to consume.
     We had no trouble finding tuna--tuna by the thousands.  Getting them to bite was something else again.  We ran through great schools of them and could see them swarming all around us, but our lines were ignored.  Ted was long-faced about our lack of success.
    “Buck up, Ted,” said his dad.  “We’re going to get you a tuna before the day is over.  I predict we’ll have some action by 2:30.”
     At 11:30 I put three bananas and a bunch of grapes on a paper plate and said, “Here’s your lunch, guys.” This fare was plainly for the seagulls in their opinion, so I followed it up with a platter of sandwiches that didn’t last long.
     At 2:00 one of the lines sang out.  The boys scrambled down the ladder of the flying bridge. Ted leapt into action and began winding vigorously.  He wound and wound but felt no tensions on the line.  Then, “Oh my gosh, we didn’t set the drag!”  Luckily the tuna was still on.
     Ted got set for a long battle.  Jim fetched him a glove to take the wear and tear on his left hand; Ed put cushions behind him to give him something to lean into. 
     “Hey, Mom,” he said after awhile.  “Do you think you could get this ring off?  It’s pretty tight.” 
     I worked on the ring, found it was very tight indeed.  “Got a knife?” I asked, but Ted was too busy wrestling his fish to appreciate my joke.
     “Boy, I can see what Timmy was up against!” he groaned, as the tuna made another run just after Ted had made good progress.
     “Wind him in, Ted, wind him in!” said Jimmy.
     “I can’t, he’s winding me out!”
     Nearly two hours after we hooked him, the tuna showed signs of exhaustion, turning belly-side up to rest, making a short run, then resting again.  The rest periods became longer, the runs shorter, and now we were ready to nab him.  Suddenly Robby yelled, “Look, there’s something following him.  It’s a shark!”
     “Oh no!” said Ted.  He wound furiously, Ed grabbed the leader and pulled the tuna aboard--but it was too late.  At the last minute the shark had torn a chunk from the poor creature and was swishing up and down alongside like a hungry tiger.  I leaned over the side to take movies of him, reminding myself that this was no time to fall overboard.  Maybe he wasn’t a man-eater, but he looked frustrated enough to chew up a leg out of spite.
     We cruised around for another hour, hoping to give Jimmy and Robby a crack at tuna fishing, but we had no further strikes.
     While peeling potatoes for dinner, I had an idea.  Why not feed the young varmints first, then send them ashore to explore while Ed and I dined in peace and privacy.  They were starved, yet I knew Ed would enjoy relaxing with his highball and having dinner later.  Everyone was delighted with this arrangement--the boys were especially pleased at the idea of seeing Provincetown without the older generation tagging along.
     After our tete-a-tete dinner, Ed and I went ashore, hoping to find a delicatessen, as I had neglected to stock up on several important items.  Nothing was open except the bars and the bakery.  We bought a loaf of bread and returned to the Happy Days.  At 11:00 Ed picked up the boys at the Town Landing and we all retired.
     I was just dropping off to sleep when I heard Ted swear.  He had hopped into the upper bunk and somehow managed to put a tooth through his lower lip in the process.  Ed gave him a hand towel to stanch the blood, and a chunk of ice.
Sunday, September 1, 1957, Provincetown
     Bought groceries at Fisherman’s store.  Bought Sunday papers.  Bought squid (recommended for tuna by Doug Morash who came alongside in a friend’s cruiser while we were having breakfast).
     Before going fishing, the boys wanted to do some skin-diving.  They got into long woolen underwear, then powdered their rubber suits and squirmed into them.  Jimmy and Ted had made Jim’s suit from a Do-It-Yourself kit, saving $30.00. 
     “The next suit I get, I’m going to make myself,” said Ted.    
     “You’re darn right you are,” said his father.
     Jimmy and Ted swam around under water for quite awhile, but Robby had to give up as his equipment wasn’t working right.  Every time he inhaled he got a mouthful of water as well as air.
     At 11:30 I made a dozen sandwiches for the three boys.  I was sure that this time I had made more than they could eat, but I was wrong.  Their appetites are a challenge.  Tomorrow I'll make two dozen and see what happens.    
     Saw countless tuna cavorting in schools, at such close quarters that we could practically tell the boys from the girls.  But they wouldn’t bite.  Saw Alden and Florence on the Seabird—they weren’t having any luck either.  It’s Ted’s theory that the tuna might be hungrier early in the morning, so tonight our theme song is: “Early to bed, early to rise, let’s catch a tuna of mammoth size.”
Monday, September 2, 1957, Provincetown to Cohasset
     Up at 7:30, fishing by 9:00.  Sea mighty rough.  (It’s against the rules in Provincetown to have more than two consecutive days of good weather.)  I managed to slap some breakfast on the table, but it wouldn’t stay there.  The sugar slid off the table into Jim’s lap.  If anyone called him a pill, at least he was sugar coated.  And of all times to serve soft-boiled eggs instead of scrambled!  Getting them out of their shells was like trying to thread a needle while riding a bicycle on a tightrope.  However, where there’s an appetite there’s a way, so the boys were able to capture most of their breakfast before it got away.
     Fished until around 1:30.  No luck. Wind became stronger after we started for home.  The boys hardly made a dent in all the sandwiches I’d made, probably because we’d run out of milk to wash them down with.  I told them what my mother used to say when I was their age: “Chew your food, don’t wash it down with milk.”  They looked at me skeptically, as if I couldn’t possibly have ever been their age.
November 14, 1957
Boston, Massachusetts
I am writing this during my half‑hour lunch break and attempting to eat a sandwich at the same time, so if this is a crumby commentary, I’m not to blame.  Why am I writing from Boston instead of Cohasset?  Bad question.
A week ago Ed was moaning about the high cost of living and the low supply of money, and I said, “Maybe I should get a job and help out.”
I’d hardly finished the sentence when he said, “You’re hired.”
“Wait a minute, let’s talk this over,” I said. “Aren’t you afraid of getting a complex?  Won’t you brood about people thinking you can’t support your wife?”
“Nope,” said Ed.  “Never could understand that attitude.”
“What about my tennis?  I’ll get flabby.”
"I’ll play tennis with you every weekend,” he promised.
I started work the next day.  I hadn’t yet removed my coat when Ed said briskly: “Barbara, call the airline and make a reservation for my trip to Detroit tomorrow.”  It was on the tip of my tongue to say, “Make your own damn reservation.”  I’d never made a reservation in my life, he always did those things.  He hadn’t even said please.
Before the morning was over, I was a changed and chastened woman. Not only had I meekly arranged for his trip to Detroit, I had put through long distance calls, sent telegrams, stalled creditors, fetched coffee, and said, “Yes sir, right away, sir.”  This new role felt strange; I couldn’t wait to get him home where he seemed to understand better who was boss.
What finally vanquished me was the Packing Slips and Invoices.  I had to make five carbon copies of the Invoices and seven of the Packing Slips, typing row after row of figures with my heart in my mouth.  The location of those numbers on the keyboard was something I never got around to remembering.  I could peck out the date, and that was it.  Besides, I hate numbers.  I don’t like keeping score during a bridge game.  I’d rather trust the laundry man than count the sheets and pillow cases.
The upshot was that I resigned after one day.  Then the girl who was hired to replace me quit, as who wouldn’t, and Ed suggested I try two days a week, helping with the payroll.  I allowed I could stand anything two days a week, so here I am.
I’m enjoying my job more now that I have some idea of what I’m doing.  Once Ed asked me to get Mr. Rebone on the wire.  I looked up his number in the company address book and began dialing. Before I could finish, the phone went “wheee” in my ear.  I tried again.  And again.  I was getting frustrated and an earache when Ed walked in.  That’s when I learned Mr. Rebone’s office wasn’t local, it was in Detroit.
I could go on forever, only I’d be fired.

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