Thursday, September 29, 2022
I thought for sure that we would not go through with it. Worsening weather, changing plans or dissipating desires would cause a cancellation of plans.
But nope to all the above. The fishing trip was happening. Or at least I thought so as my family drove the forty miles to the harbor.
So odd, to be the passenger instead of the driver. I had been to the bay only once, but even then it had been a sidelight destination to a drive with my parents. My then-husband drove my parents, son and I as we retraced their road-trips from their courtship and childhoods. We wound through fishing towns, from the lakeshore to the bay. My father narrated as we passed country school buildings where he had first taught.
I wished today that I had insisted on my father directing us to the farmsteads of my great grandparents. As I rode on this unfamiliar highway, familiar town names dotted the backroads. Brussels, Dyckesville, Luxembourg and Cisco. My head gathered up those names.
Smiling I remembered smells of farm kitchens and homes heated with wood. I thought of the great aunts and uncles who had greeted me at their doors. In the seconds that the names passed by, I could still see the exchange of handshakes and cheese. As a child, my parents would bring cheese and my grandparents to the farms for visits.
They would feed us, allow me to explore just a little bit, talk with each other around a wood stove, then send us on our way with jams. My great aunt was tall, thin with a customary crooked nose typical of my mothers paternal side of the family. She spoke with a pointed finger in speech flavored with mispronounced consonants. The ‘th’ was ‘t’; the “they” became “tay”, an effect which hardened her conversations. To me, without the stories which I would later hear, they were lovely Bohemian Belgian people with just a dash of German (but they might have denied that heritage if it had ever been brought to light).
“Brussels” drifted by. With widened eyes and mouth sometimes held agape, I watched the countryside roll past the passenger side truck window. I had never even thought we would be passing these towns, markers of my heritage.
We drove through outcroppings of limestone hills, cut for a roadway through the peninsula. Nothing looked familiar which bothered me in a pleasantly unsettling manner. Not much surprises me, but I found myself growing more curious as we drove closer to our destination.
The traffic was unremarkable as I lost myself in those town names. The trees in the limestone sands became scrubby oaks. In the traffic, more and more boats were being towed.
Then we were there. Amid franchises and small businesses, we turned into the marina. I found myself straining to see. I could not wait to jump out.
The skies had not lightened but the threat of rain had eased. The air was the cooling of summer winds, not quite nippy enough for autumn but no where near even a slight heat of summer. It drifted with a perfect middle of the road grey theme.
I grabbed my backpack in a slightly childish fashion. I jumped out as soon as I could. Of course I would return to help with the rest of gear, but I myself had packed minimally. I was set to go (which is a first for me…I am typically the ‘over packer’ with coolers, blankets and whatnot).
The sight of the forty-eight foot fishing boat stopped me in my steps. My family was carrying the cooler, knowing I had my gear. I began to cry. I didn’t know why. I am rather prone to emotions but many times I hide them when I feel an overwhelming flood.
I was caught off guard. I had been unsure about the whole trip for the month before it happened. I was convinced it wouldn’t. Here I stood before a beautiful charter boat. Crying. The emotion of being surrounded by boats sunk into me like being dipped into the very lake I was soon to float upon.
“Papa,” I whispered. “Papa, I’m going fishing. Papa, I’m going on this boat.”
I turned away, walking quickly away from family. My understanding of my emotions took time. I felt foolish for my tears but I could not stop them. I turned away from the boat in an effort to regain control. But the tears came again.
I told my family. “My father would have loved this.” They nodded in silent agreement.
We boarded the boat without fanfare. It was lovely, down to duty, with engines turning over and the ropes let loose from the dock. Just as we set our bags inside the galley, we were underway, my family, the captain and his mate. As we settled in, the captain explained rules of safety aboard, particularly walking, climbing ladders and bathroom usage. Practical yet necessary rules.
I began to weep as we slowly passed boats moored perhaps for the rest of the season. It was as if they had earned their right to rest after the summers activity. Soon they would be dry docked or sailed to warmer waters.
Sailboats dotted the waters further out in the harbor. We carefully but steadily moved through them to the channel markers. Green and red, green and red.
The captain had added that if we wished, we could join him up in the bridge. And of course, I wished to do so. It was the spot in which I could see where I was going!
I climbed the ladder. The bridge was maybe eight to ten feet above the main level. I was surprised at the height and even more surprised at the seating which wrapped the front of the captains area.
He nodded to me that it was ok. I focused back to the seats meant for passengers. As I moved to them, my eye caught our destination.
Ahead I saw the tree lined canal with the smallest of openings at the end. Ahead of me lie my lake of ghosts and memories which I had run through only weeks before. In the most extreme notion of my mind, here I was, charging forward through the canal in a rite of passage of little importance. Those ghosts and memories seemed unimportant as I felt the engines steadily ease the boat.
I ate up every foot of the canal. My eyes drank the homes, the grounds of estates from the harbor. The canal shores quickly turned to wildness. Tree falls and marshy shores lined the largest part of the canal. Birds and otters welcomed me as I drifted through their habitat.
As the canal deepened, steel retaining walls outlined the shore. Fishermen and women dotted the edges. Some waved, some motioned for us to creep through even slower.
We proceeded to the opening. I drank in the shoreline. My eyes flitted back and forth, from the opening to the lake to the banks of the canal.
“Papa,” I whispered. “You would have loved this. Papa, I am here.”
Below me the engines revved ever so slightly. I grabbed the rail a bit tighter then smiled to the lake ahead.
Stay tuned for part two next week!
Loads of love, ss.