Wednesday 28 Sep 2016

Tashmoo Pond
AJ Robinson

Technically, its proper name is Lake Tashmoo, but my dad always just called it a pond. I never did know why, nor did I know and still don’t, what, if anything, the name means. I always assumed it was some Indian name – like so much of Martha’s Vineyard.

The pond sits on the northwest side of the island, sort of “just around the corner” from West Chop, and it was a place where my dad sometimes kept his boat. I never understood why he did that. After all, Oak Bluffs Harbor was so much closer to our cottage.

I think he used it for two reasons: cost and beauty. To moor a boat in the harbor meant you incurred a fee, and my dad could be a bit of a, to be polite, miser. Then there was the simple beauty of the place. Whenever we drove out of Vineyard Haven and headed out to West Tisbury, we always stopped at the scenic overlook that afforded people a view of the pond.

Kind of funny that we should, isn’t it? I mean, think about it; people who live in a place for a long time, even just a summer place like the island, get used to certain things, and stop noticing them.

Not Tashmoo Pond.


Driving down the long, narrow and winding dirt road to the dock, we always left the windows open. My mom would wear a scarf on her head to keep her hair from knocking about. I was forever sticking my arm out the window. The rickety old dock reeked of tar and turpentine, and the mix of salt water and honeysuckle in the air smelled like what summers should.

Taking the dingy out to the boat, we’d set to work on whatever it was dad needed to take care of. Maybe it was just cleaning up, or stowing the sails down below. If we were there for fun, we’d hoist anchor, and head out the narrow mouth of the pond and into the Vineyard Sound. Along the way, he’d point out the places of the famous. Here was a house owned by some old starlet I’d never heard of. That’s a boat owned by James Cagney; if he were on it, we’d give him a wave.

Once our sails were up, he’d let the wind take us in whichever direction seemed best; it really didn’t matter. As far as we were concerned, we were out on the water to spend time together, and we already knew our destination was back to the pond. It wasn’t important where we were going. We loved the journey, most. We didn’t even turn around once. We’d sail all the way around the island. We’d have lunch, take in the sights and tell stories – my dad was a great one for that. Of course, when we rounded Chappaquiddick, we’d always go on about Teddy Kennedy!

Sometimes we’d bring one of my friends and their family, or some visitors, and that was the best kind of trip. Somehow, having someone else, especially someone who didn’t know the island, made the journey all the more special.

Now that I think of it, I don’t think cost was a factor at all. After all, it took time getting to and from the pond, and gas. Mooring his boat there was really quite the inconvenience.

I guess he had his reasons.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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