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Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

What’s amazing is that it feels like it was just yesterday.  It makes me wonder what it would be like to be a real time traveler, to be able to go forward or back in time by decades or more, and wake up and know where you are because you’ve lived it all before.  That’s how I’m feeling about the anniversary, tomorrow.  I’m the cajillionth in a line of people talking about this anniversary (and I won’t talk that much, I promise).  But I keep shaking my head, because the memories are SO present.

I remember not only what I was doing, but what it felt like to be on the school bus coming home, to see my mother crying when I walked in the door, to spend the wierdest Thanksgiving ever, with my aunt and uncle in a smoke-filled den, watching Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather, for hours on end.

There were breaks for food, breaks for the adults to make drinks, breaks to get more tissues, and the sense that this was some bizarre drama in which we were the bit players. No one could remember when the last time was that this had happened;  all they could do was talk about Lincoln’s assassination, “Camelot,” and the beautiful young widow and the two small, adorable children in blue coats.  All I could do was watch them, and watch the TV.

And it was the end of some kind of innocence for me, and probably for many other pre-teens of my generation:  the time when it all seemed to go a little whacky, when the young hero I’d stood and waved to in Hyannisport the previous summer had been ‘disappeared’; the start of the time when people decided that if they didn’t like someone, they’d blow them away to make their lives better and fulfill some promise in their minds about how to change the world.

I started writing slogans that I found inspirational, writings from Anne Frank and Shakespeare and Aldous Huxley even, on the bedroom shades.  I’d lie there in the half-dark, looking at those words, wondering how they had been moved to write those things and wondering if I’d ever be a writer or a great thinker, or how one survived tragedy and disappointment so deep it hurt in my heart.

I started peppering my childhood minister, Rev. Wayne Shuttee, with questions about how there could be a loving God in the face of insanity and rage.  About why there was a world where such bad things happened. About how people find courage and strength to carry on in the face of such stuff.  Wayne answered some, helped me struggle some, and — with my church youth group — helped me believe that together, we could find the resources inside us to carve a new path… so that our lives, and maybe those of our children, wouldn’t be etched with the violence that wiped out those we looked up to and adored (even though we’d never really known them).

All that is hopelessly idealistic, of course.  And it was unfulfilled:  the men who wiped out Martin, Bobby, and a string of lesser heroes made sure we learned that lesson, again and again. Yet, we endure.  We continue to believe, with undying hope, that our world might be different some day.  Which brings us back, in some ways, to the unfulfilled promises of the young man who died fifty years ago.

Tomorrow, I’ll be the kid on the bus again, walking in the door and seeing my mother crying and trying to understand why the world had gone mad.  Just like yesterday.

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I can not remember exactly when it was that I first went fishing.  We had gone to visit my mother’s aunt and uncle, who lived on a farm in rural New York, in the Neversink River Valley.  Aunt Laura and Uncle Arthur were folks who lived simply, feeding deer by hand as they came to the farm house through the meadows.  Arthur had made copper still moonshine years earlier with his brother, Willard (we still have a little in a large jug) and blueberry bushes were everywhere, providing a sweet summertime treat (and an activity to keep me busy) during my visits.

But it was that first fishing trip that has stayed indelibly in my mind.  Arthur and Laura had a small lake on their property, as I recall, and one day Uncle Arthur, my dad and I went off fishing.  Arthur had a cigar box in which he kept hooks and bobbers, and we dug some worms (which I have always found intriguing – don’t ask me why) for bait.  We took bamboo poles, got into the boat, and rowed out into the lake.  Someone baited the hook and handed the pole to me, and I practiced throwing it into the water, and then waiting.  Not very patiently.  My dad explained that fishing takes patience.  So we sat, and Dad and Uncle Arthur talked.  I watched that bobber like a hawk.  Not much happened for a long, long time.

Then, I felt a little tug, followed by a larger one.  I thought I had something, but the hook had become stuck in the muck on the bottom of the lake. We tried again.  Another tug, and more persistent this time.  Uncle Arthur helped me jerk the pole a little, and sure enough, up came a catfish!  This was so exciting to me – I had to try again.  We spent the next few hours fishing and pulled up some sunfish and a few more catfish.  When we were done, we rowed back to shore, carried the fish to the house, and although I don’t remember this part, I imagine they got cooked for supper.  The sure thing is that I, too, had become hooked on fishing.

Years later, I lived in Stony Creek, CT, a part of Branford that, despite some pretty fancy real estate, feels like a small Maine community that got dropped into Long Island Sound.  I’d take my fishing pole — I had acquired several by this time — and go out of Branford or East Haven on a boat owned by the radio station for which I worked.  While doing occasional boating reports was my penance for hitching a ride on the station’s boat out into the water, it was a pretty small price to pay for a day of sunning, picknicking, and occasionally hooking something.

Even better were the days spent on the dock in Stony Creek.  It was the best place to catch up on the local news, as I watched the comings and goings of fishermen, folks taking an excursion out to the Thimble Islands, or people responding to an emergency.  I remember well the time when a bunch of men jumped in their boats to go out to Governor’s Island, where part of cartoonist Garry Trudeau’s roof had fallen in — the day before he was to marry Jane Pauley.  The residents responded to the emergency, and the wedding went off as planned.

My favorite catch off the Stony Creek dock was the baby blues that ran in August – small and not too fishy.  My uncle Irv, a physician, who also loved to fish, had taught me how to clean them, and without much ado and a little butter and lemon, I had a fabulous summer dinner.

But saying you’ve gone fishing is also a metaphor, of course, for vacationing…and it could be anywhere.  That’s what I’ll be doing, starting this weekend.  I’ll head to Rye Harbor, then out to the Isles of Shoals and Star Island.  I’ve fished in Gosport Harbor many times (mixed vegetables make fabulous chum to attract the pollack and flounder that one most often finds there) and I may or may not put a line in the water.  But I will let go, relax, and — at least emotionally — go fishin’.  I hope you have the same opportunity in the coming week.

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