Monday 26 Sep 2016

Building a Boat
AJ Robinson

When you spend your summers on Martha's Vineyard Island, what could be more normal than to want to build a boat? Well, that's what my friend Reed and I wanted to do. So, one summer, we must have been about eight, we decided we were going to do just that.

Step one, we had to figure out where we were going to do it. That was fairly easy; Reed's cottage had a nice deck area right by the back door, and near his Dad's tool shed. Plus, his Dad had a ton of scrap wood that we could use in the construction.

So, Reed got us some hammers and nails, and I came over one morning. Oh, did I mention that we didn't have a plan or blueprint? For that matter, we had no idea what those things were! No, we were just going to bang some boards together, create some sort of figurehead, slap on a tiller, and then throw up a mast. Presto, we'd have our very own boat.

The thing is, it never really worked out as we'd hoped. First off, those hammers were very big. Or maybe, it was just that our hands were kind of small. Anyway, we quickly got tired and had to take a break. By then, Dailis or Jimmy and Eddy would come by and want to go to the beach or Sunset Lake, or go play a game. So, the boat got put aside.

Another day, we'd be back at it. And then there was the matter of getting the right piece of wood. We weren't very good at handling a saw, so we pretty much had to scrounge around to find one that fit. Or, if that failed, we'd pull the boat apart and start over. Think of it like this: you're putting a puzzle together, and you don't know what the picture looks like; and you have to glue all the pieces together! If you make a mistake, you have to tear the whole puzzle apart.

And, bear in mind, as hard as it was to get those nails in, pulling them out was even harder. So, that poor little boat never really came together. No, we spent a lot of time banging and pulling and smashing those twisted and broken boards together. Yet, we never really got them into any form that even remotely resembled a boat.

So, did we fail in our quest? In building a boat - yes. In having a whole lot of plain old, simple fun - absolutely not!

The "boat", it's long gone. Its memory; ah, now that is one of the special events of my childhood. As I recall, it only "sailed" once. We carried it down to the lake and tried to see if it could carry us. Do I have to tell you the results of our "buoyancy tests"? Yeah, as boat builders, we were utter failures; as ordinary kids having the sort of fun kids should have more of, I'd say we were a smashing success.

I have to wonder, does Reed still remember that old boat?

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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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