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When looking over my family photographs, I discovered that we are a family drawn to rowboats.
The earliest rowboat picture is of me, as proud as a 6-year-old can be, rowing a rather shabby rowboat, all by myself. Iím in front of the cottage at Lake Winnipesaukee our first summer there. I remember really REALLY wanting to learn to row and be in the boat all by myself. After all, my parents let my brother do that. The fact that he was 3 years older and a strong swimmer made no difference to me.
"I want to row that boat!"
So my parents let me row that boat, but the boat had to be tied to the dock. I remember that rope as being really really long. I could do about 8 strokes, of various degrees of effectiveness, before I literally got to the end of my rope... So there I am in that black and white photo, glowing with pride, with that long, long rope tied around the seat in the bow of the rowboat.
I guess my parents thought that the rope provided enough safety -- I'm not wearing a life preserver nor are there even any floating seat cushions in the rowboat. Hmmm
The next rowboat picture, a color Polaroid picture, was taken 9 years later, again by the cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee. My brother and I are in the foreground. My brother has an 18-year-oldís "just take the picture and get it over with" smile on his face, while Iím wearing my first Ďsexyí bathing suit Ė a one-piece with a scooped neckline (no cleavage visible) and a really scooped back, almost down to my waist. And in the background of this color picture is the turquoise plywood rowboat.
That rowboat was yet another creation of our next door neighbor Mr. Barker, who was a butcher, and my father, a purchasing agent. They had collaborated on putting the heater in the ceiling in our bathroom, and making a headboard/bookcase for my brother, and assembling countless Christmas toys in Mr. Barkerís basement. If Mr. Barker didnít know how to make something, he just borrowed a book from our town library. So when my father reported the previous year that that shabby rowboat which I had learned to row in had finally disappeared from the cottage, Mr. Barker said, "Why donít we make a rowboat?"
So that next summer, Mr. Barker and my father, joined this time by another neighbor, Mr. Clarke, an electrician, built a rowboat in our garage. I remember getting ready for bed and looking out the window, through the branches of the dogwood tree. I could see the lights on in the garage and hear the buzz of tools and our new shipbuilders. When it was time for us to leave for New Hampshire, the boat was all assembled: the inside was shining with varnish and there was thick white tubing all around the upper edge of the boat to act as a bumper. But the outside was unpainted. So they put the unpainted boat on the top of our Rambler station wagon, and off we went to New Hampshire. We got a lot of stares on the ride north Ė I guess no one had ever seen an unpainted rowboat on top of a Rambler station wagon.
Before we left, my father had purchased some aquamarine paint, thinking of Caribbean waters. But in this case, at least, aquamarine meant vibrant glow-in-the-dark turquoise. It was quite a sound boat, three of us plus a small outboard motor could go out IF you went slowly. So there that rowboat is in the Polaroid picture, behind my brother and me, looking quite ah vibrant with its turquoise outside and turquoise oars. And there are even some brand new nautical seat cushions/life preservers inside. But on the way home, we got LOTS more stares with the now painted boat on top of our Rambler station wagon.
The last rowboat picture is of my then 9-year-old son on his solo trip in a rowboat.
We were staying in near Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor Maine at the end of a cove, across from a marina. There was a floating dock (during high tide) with a small rowboat, just a dinghy. My son had gone out in the dinghy with my husband the previous day. Now, my son had heard the story of how I had learned to row, tied to the dock on Lake Winnipesaukee. So while I was reading in a hammock, overlooking the cove in Maine, my son appeared, wearing an orange life preserver.
"Mom, can I go rowing? Iíll be tied to the dock, just like you were."
"OK", I replied with a grin. "Let me go get the camera."
So while I was watching, my son confidently rowed out a ways, with the same expression on his face: delight, self-confidence, power, aren't-I-clever. He then decided to pull himself back in. He kept on pulling in the rope until the end appeared in his hands. I had to laugh at the stunned and shocked expression on his face -- it was like one of those moments during cartoons when the characters shout "OH NO!" Then, with incredible speed, my son rowed back to the dock and securely tied the dinghy to the dock.
Yes, it seems that my family is fascinated with rowboats. And Iíve thought about the future. Iíve told my son that I want to see two pictures of my grandchildren taking their solo rowboat trips: one picture of my grandchild wearing a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket, and the other picture of the rope securely tied to the dock.
Copyright © 1999 by Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.