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Sunday, July 23, 2017

WHO'S GOING TO FEED US? (16)

Monday, July 4, 1960, Cohasset
     “How did we get out here?” Ed asked me this morning. 
     “We rowed out in someone’s skiff.  You couldn’t find ours so you picked one that looked like ours and said, `To hell with it, I’m going to borrow it.’”
     We went out to study the skiff floating off our stern, and Ed said, “It not only looks like ours, it is ours.”
     Having long since digested last night's potato chip, I was hungrier than ever and prevailed upon the Captain to take me out to breakfast at the Cohasset Restaurant.  Kathie tracked us down there and said she and her friends would be ready to go for a cruise in fifteen minutes.
    Left harbor at 10:15.  It’s a gorgeous day, mildly breezy but not enough to make anyone run for the Dramamine.
     Went out to Stellwagon Ledge.  Shortly after noon saw several groups of whales; saw a mother whale nursing her offspring.  Perhaps we were rude to invade her privacy, but a fellow mammal at chow time is a rare sight, after all.  If anyone is interested, baby whales nurse not only under water but also upside down.
     We didn’t see any tuna, but judging by the action around neighboring boats, they were out there.  Saw a barrel being dragged along at a great clip by what we presumed was a harpooned tuna.
     Our guests today are Kathie's friends: Marilyn Tindall, Becky Brown, Mary McDearmid, Roger Seward, Biddy Bentele, Bob Guthrie, and Rita Johnson, and Butler Burton.
     Reached homeport at 4:45 p.m.
Friday, July 8, 1960, Cohasset to Province town
     Rogerses and Malleys off to a flying start from the word go.  Ed placed all our gear on the handy little two-wheeled cart supplied by the Yacht Club, started pushing it down the gangway, which was steeply inclined, the tide being low.  While the row of rocking chair sailors watched in rapt fascination from the porch, the cart gained momentum faster than our Captain, and taking the bit in its teeth, cantered down to the dock.  All our most intimate belongings (rum, Vodka, Bromo-Seltzer) were strewn along the way.  Very embarrassing.  Ball Walker kindly helped us repack our gear, and Cliff Dickson felt so sorry for us that he offered to resume launch service that had just ceased for the day.  I never saw Ed leave the harbor so fast; he didn’t even bother to put up any flags or check to see if we were all aboard.
     Departure time: 5:00 p.m.  A beautiful evening, warm and balmy enough to sit on the flying bridge without sweaters.  Within an hour, the going became rough.  In the forward cabin where I was trying to take a nap, I felt as if I’d landed in a paint-mixing machine.  Bill also attempted to sleep and gave up. 
Arrived Provincetown 7:45.
Saturday, July 9, 1960, Provincetown
     Took Mr. Mitchell’s taxi to Yacht and Tennis Club.  Couldn’t get a court until 11:00, so we strolled  half a mile to the driftwood-ceramics-pottery shop to browse around.  Bill said he’d never walked so far in his life.  He did seem a trifle winded, but we dragged him back to the tennis court and played a couple of sets.
     Mr. Mitchell’s Taxi Service conveyed us to the public beach.  The fellows insisted that Daisy and I select a spot for us, claiming this was the only way we’d ever be satisfied.  We chose what appeared to be a  secluded area, but it was soon subverted by the arrival of two females, a blousy blonde and a bikinied brunette.  When they paraded down to the water Daisy and I watched the backs of our husbands’ necks very carefully and neither of them twitched a nerve.   They didn't miss anything, though, what with their eyes being on stems like a pair of Praying Mantises. 
     Returned to the Happy Days at 4:00 p.m., agreed to have our first cocktail at 4:30 to celebrate the departure of the Boston Belle.  We always manage to think of something to celebrate. However, the bartender (Ed) was so slow about coming up with a second drink, you’d think we were in the middle of a desert and down to our last four ounces of water.  This idea was Bill's, who stated that we should pace ourselves, so when the time arrived to go ashore for dinner, we would be able to.  Bill was thoroughly disapproving when the second round was produced sooner than his schedule had ordained.  He sat there sipping his drink and frowning at his watch.  Suddenly he said, “Hey Ed, what time does your watch say?” 
     “Twenty of six,” said Ed.
     “Twenty of six?  Mine says five minutes of five.  It must have stopped.”
     You never saw such a transformation.  The frown was replaced by a radiant smile, and Bilious Bill was transformed into Billy the Kidder. 
     Got dolled up and went ashore at 7:00.  Sought out our friend Mr. Mitchell, who took us to the Provincetown Inn, stopping on the way at the Moors where we made an 8:45 dinner reservation.  Had a couple of cocktails at the Inn, then walked back to the Moors.  Exquisite cuisine.  The food was good, too.
    Asked Mr. Mitchell what he recommended in the way of night life.  His first suggestion, which we should have heeded, was that we return to our boat and go to bed.  Then he took us to a place we’d heard about and said he wouldn’t leave until he was sure we were going to be happy.  (Mr. Mitchell is a laconic, fatherly sort.)  
     The boys asked for a table for five because by this time we were as devoted to Mr. Mitchell as he was to us.  He wouldn’t sit down, however, until it was clearly established what and when the entertainment would be and how much.  The waiter was quite mysterious about everything except the “how much”--two dollars apiece.  Led by Mr. Mitchell, who shook his head and muttered something about buying a pig in a poke, we marched out Indian File.
     Mr. Mitchell next dropped us at the Surf Club, a joint on the dock that he selected, I believe, because it was within swimming distance of our boat.  There was a piano and a small stage at the far end of the Club.  We chose a nearby table, and Daisy ensconced herself in a chair with a great tall back, saying that it looked like a throne and was obviously her type.  Two minutes after Bill sat down she decided it wasn’t her type after all, it was very uncomfortable and Billy must change with her.  After a brief argument, won by you-know-who, our Queen abdicated,.  Long live the King.
     For the next half hour we were entertained by a trio: a man at the piano, a man with a bass viol, and an Enigma on the drums.  The Enigma appeared to be a tall slim girl, but Daisy was convinced it was the tall slim boy we saw playing tennis at the Yacht and Tennis Club.  The fellows disagreed with this opinion, but I believed she was correct.
     Ed said, “If that’s a boy, I’m Amby Dextrous.” This observation struck me as remarkable--not so much because of its content but because he succeeded in making it.  It takes perfect timing not to interrupt Daisy when she’s in one of her loquacious moods.
     When the Surf Club closed, Ed took Daisy and me out to the Happy Days.  You can take a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, nor could Ed make Daisy get out of that dinghy.  She informed him that she had absolutely no intention of getting out.  In his best Captain Bligh manner he ordered her to get out;  Daisy giggled and said, “Make me.”
     “All right, sit there,” Ed said, getting mad and climbing into the boat. “You can sit there all night and poor Bill can sit on the dock all night for all I care.”
     “Did you tie the dinghy?” I asked Ed.
     He had not tied the dinghy, but as she drifted away, Daisy caroled that we were not to worry a bit, she would start the outboard and go in after Bill herself.
    “Suppose she falls in and drowns?” I said.  “It would ruin Bill’s evening.”
     There were outboard starting sounds, but the motor didn’t respond.
     “Hey Ed, how do you start this thing?” Daisy called.
     “You row back here and I’ll show you,” Ed said.
     “If I do, will you let me go back with you to pick up Bill?”
     “Yes,” Ed growled.    ”Promise?”    “I promise.”    “Scout’s honor?”
     “Scout’s honor,” moaned Captain Bligh
     Daisy paddled back to the boat, chirping sweetly every few minutes: “Promise, Ed?” “Scout’s?”
     “I promise, Daisy,” Ed repeated, swearing under his breath.  It was pitiful.
     Before Queen Daisy took off with her miserable galley slave, I summoned him to the deckhouse and laid down an ultimatum of my own.  “How do I get the Coastguard on this thing?  If you’re not back in ten minutes, I’m calling out the Marines.”
     He showed me the switch and then left, a pathetic, quivering wreck of what was once a man.
     I was left with my thoughts.  I recalled that Daisy said she would be a seagull in her next incarnation.  A Black Widow spider would be more like it, I thought darkly.
     But they were back in short order, and maybe I did the “Bird” (as Bill calls her) an injustice.  Maybe she had a hunch the boys needed chaperoning in case they decided to go back and check out the Enigma.
     Looking back, the high point of the evening was when Daisy turned to Ed, and laying her hand tenderly on his arm, said: “Do you know what I loved about you today?”
     “What?” he asked, trying to look modest.  Gazing deep into his eyes she said, “I loved the way you kept missing my serve.”
Sunday, July 10, 1960, Province town to Cohasset
     If I didn’t know better, I’d say we must live right; we have been blessed with another incredibly beautiful day.
     Daisy and I thought it would be fun to do some bottom fishing, and to my astonishment, the Captain humored our plebeian whim.  As we are ill-equipped for catching anything under six hundred pounds, Bill and Ed spent at least an hour untangling lines and fitting them with makeshift sinkers (brass bolts and other hardware).  Surprisingly, we did have some small hooks, so it wasn’t necessary to sacrifice our bobby pins.
     Our bottom fishing was every bit as successful as our tuna fishing--more so when you consider the gas we saved.
     Arrived Cohasset 4:00 p.m.
The Home Front, July 29, 1960  
      Malley’s Madhouse is bursting at the seams this summer.  Like similar institutions, we have too many inmates and not enough help, so the proprietors are getting as balmy as the inmates.
     Kathie and Ted are hospitable youngsters and have the Welcome Mat out almost every weekend for out-of-town friends.  I keep zipping it in again, convinced that our household is complicated enough already—especially with Kathryn away and Vaughan ailing.  But the minute my back is turned, out it goes again. 
     Kathie clues me in on her plans, but Ted likes to surprise me.  Actually, boys his age don’t seem to know what their plans are from one day to the next.
     Late yesterday afternoon Ed and I came home after a weekend on the boat, just the two of us, and found the house a-swarm with humanity.  Kathie’s two young men friends were still here, as we could see when we retreated to our bedroom and were faced with scattered piles of clothing, unmade beds, and a breakfast tray of dirty dishes.  Ted had invited two of his pals to spend the night, and since there wasn’t a bed to spare in the main house, they slept in Kathryn’s wing. 
JANETH, WALLY, AND CHILDREN
     Down in the kitchen Mother was floating around preparing a casserole for four lady friends who were expected any minute for Sunday night supper.  And finally there were Jan and Walter who had come down to visit their children.
     Their car had broken down halfway between Reading and Cohasset, so they called Mother to see if she could pick them up.  Mother and Vaughan set out, but poor Mom didn’t understand Jan’s instructions on how to get to the service station and drove almost to Reading without finding them.  Mother called the number Jan had given her and once again Jan tried to make clear where they were.  This time the weary ladies drove all the way back to South Hingham, again missing the stranded pair.  By this time Mother was half hysterical with worry about her supper guests, and Vaughan, who has been recuperating nicely, was ready for a stretcher.
     At the service station Jan resigned herself to life being what it is sometimes and sat calmly reading one magazine article after another.  Walter paced up and down, advising her not to get excited and to relax.  He paced for exactly four hours, which was the time it took Mother to find them.   (In the end, she offered a gas station attendant a dollar and a half to interpret Jan’s directions and lead her to the proper place.)
     So when Ed and I entered our house yesterday afternoon, there were sixteen people milling around, including ourselves, with four dear old ladies due to arrive any minute.  How Mother survived her ordeal without having a heart attack, I’ll never know.  I retired to the bathroom which was miraculously empty and began putting my hair up on rollers because we were invited to a friend’s house for the evening.  Jan and Walter joined me and filled me in on their misadventures, then said they guessed they’d be on their way.  I couldn’t blame them for making their visit so short—there was scarcely a place to sit down.  They borrowed Mom’s car and departed, and a few minutes later Mom’s guests arrived.
     I sat under the hair dryer in the laundry room and counted up the occupants of the house—twenty.  Most of them were young people who would soon be expecting supper.  Vonnie came out with Linda and Wally in tow and reasonably asked, “Who’s going to feed us?”
     Not in the sunniest of moods, I said I didn’t know and I didn’t care.  Nobody starved, of course.  Kathie had a cookout for herself and her friends, and Vonnie fixed frankforts and beans for the rest of the gang.  I came out to the kitchen and told her I was proud of the way she pitched in and prepared dinner for her cousins.
     Before Ed and I left for the evening, I went up to see how Big Vaughan was doing. She looked exhausted, but her first thought was for us.  “Why don’t you turn right around and go back to your boat?”
     Then she said she was starved and asked if the coast was clear in the kitchen.  She and I see eye to eye on this houseguest business.  It’s not the extra work that gets us down, it’s the confusion.  We’re getting too old to cope with so many different personalities and problems at once.
     Ed is more patient and philosophical than I am.  I don’t know anyone who appreciates peace and privacy more than he does, but he thinks the kids are entitled to entertain their friends in their own home.  He’s right—all too soon they’ll be grown up and gone . . . .

[unsanitized version]
     So in addition to the “regulars”--six Malleys, two young Blacks, my mother and Vaughan--we had four house guests, two visiting parents, and four dear old ladies about to arrive for Sunday night supper.  I have always been uneasy in crowds, especially when they’re in my house, so it didn’t take long for my boat-induced tranquility to evaporate.  Vonnie came to me with Linda and Wally in tow as I was putting up my hair (we had been invited out for cocktails) and asked reasonably enough: “Who's going to feed us?”
     “I don’t know and I don’t care!” I snapped. [In truth I admitted in the Log to snarling, but decades later I regard my 39-year-old self with such distaste, I’m ready to delete this performance altogether.]
     Kathie was still down on the beach with her friends--I don’t think she likes crowds, either.  Resourceful 15-year-old Vonnie fixed frankforts and beans for herself, Tim, Linda, Wally, Ted and his friends. [Good for darling Vonnie!]
    Before I left I blew my top at Kathie and Teddy.  Ted says, “What’s your problem?  Has anyone asked you to lift a finger?”  Kathie says, “Daddy isn’t mad at us.” 
    They thought I was a mean, inhospitable, rhymes-with-witch.  And their father sympathized with them!  Isha and Vaughan, on the other hand, thought I was the most patient and long-suffering of women.  This, of course, is a more accurate description of the True Me.

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