Sunday 25 Sep 2016

The Queen
AJ Robinson

No, this isn’t a review of the Helen Mirren movie. When you live on Martha’s Vineyard Island, there are certain things, certain terms or designations that you get used to using. You never call the island by its full name; it’s either “The Island” or “The Vineyard.” Nantucket is always “The Other Place,” and the Island Queen is simply “The Queen.”

Back when I was a kid, I didn’t ride the Queen very much. Typically, my mom and I would take the ferry, since we were in her car, and the Queen is strictly a passenger ship. It sails from Falmouth to Oak Bluffs, and, for me and my friends, the sight of it was always something special. When we were down at Town Beach, the Queen was a joy to behold. You see, Town Beach is right by the jetties that sit at the entrance to the harbor. So, when the Queen comes in, she races right by the beach, and her wake always, always, makes the biggest and the best waves ever!

Oh, man, we would cheer at the sight of the Queen, grab our floaties and race into the water. Talk about “Surf’s up!”

As we got older, we eventually learned the schedule of the Queen, and planned our beach visits accordingly. If we timed it right, we could get two good blasts from her, and still make it home in time for lunch. It was quite the big deal for a bunch of little boys.

Then there was my Dad. As he was working, he could only come down to visit us on the weekends. He’d arrive late on Friday, in Falmouth, “pah’k his cah,” that’s “park his car,” for you non-New Englanders, and come over on the Queen. It was always such fun to meet him at the boat. Back then, the Queen came all the way into the harbor, up near Nancy’s Snack Bar and Poole’s Fish Market. Then come Monday morning, he’d set his bag by the door, eat breakfast, and wait for the Queen’s horn to sound. When he heard it, he’d grab his bag, kiss my mom good-bye, and race out the door. By the time he got to the harbor, the Queen would be docked and just about ready to take on passengers.

Every once in a while I got to ride the Queen, too. There was something nice, something almost quaint about riding it. I think it was because it was strictly a passenger boat; it was so small, and it had a nice little snack bar right below the wheelhouse. It was almost like playing in a small floating clubhouse. I loved the fact that it came in at Oak Bluffs, and we could walk to our cottage. The ride was also shorter, a definite plus for a little boy anxious to get to his friends and fun!

Then, times began to change. In the case of the Queen, not much changed about the boat, but they moved its dock up to near the entrance, built a whole, brand new facility for it, in fact. It looked very spiffy, and we actually liked sitting on the dock to fish, but it took something from my childhood: breakfast with my Dad. I know that might sound silly, but because the Queen now docked near the mouth of the harbor, it docked much faster. My Dad couldn’t wait for the horn and race for the boat, the dock wasn’t that far for the boat to reach, and he wasn’t that fast a runner!

Odd the way progress can affect a family, isn’t it?

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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