Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Burnt Biscuits

Dad, Mom, Sister Judy and "Granny"
     Got an inspirational e-mail today... a story about a considerate husband whose wife burned the biscuits but he ate them anyway, pretending they were just fine. The couple’s young daughter notices this. She relates: Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his biscuits burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, "Your Momma put in a hard day at work today and she's real tired. And besides - a little burnt biscuit never hurt anyone! You know, life is full of imperfect things... and imperfect people. I'm not the best at hardly anything, and I forget things just like everyone else. What I've learned over the years is that learning to accept each other’s faults - and choosing to celebrate each other’s differences - is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship”  
Mom three years ago in front of our old house

     Guess you can't argue with that!  But it made me think of my own childhood.  I have no biscuit story to tell you.  Truth is, my parents argued a lot. I remember at six years of age being awakened by the sound of shattering glass and loud voices. I cracked open the bedroom door and had a clear view of the kitchen where Mother was throwing the family dishes at Dad, one at a time. Each of her angry outbursts was punctuated by the sound of a cup or a saucer crashing into the wall behind my father, who ducked and dodged each one like he knew Kung Fu.  When mother ran out of the ceramic grenades, she ran from the room, crying, and locked herself in the bathroom.  My father told her that if she didn’t unlock the door he was going to break it down. He pounded convincingly on it a few times and then I heard a click.  He opened the door and went in.  Hiding in the dark, I listened, waiting for round two.  But all I could hear were their urgent voices, more muted now.  I closed my door and crawled back into bed, heart pounding. 
Dad and Mom in the early 1950's
     I lay in the dark envisioning our family disentegrating, wondering with which relative I would be sent to live. None of them were acceptable, not even the kindest, my aunt Iris, the hairdresser (called a “beauty operator"in those days). I sobbed until sleep overtook me.
     I awoke the next morning with a sense of deep dread and entered the kitchen cautiously, awaiting the awful announcement.  But it was as if nothing had happened!  No sign of the pottery shards on the linoleum floor...no angry looks on my parents' faces!  My sister,who is four years older than I, showed no signs of having witnessed the fracas. Maybe she was a veteran of such combat and knew it was like a summer evening storm, the thunder and lightning sure to be followed by a cloudless quiet. We ate our oatmeal and toast while Mom busied about, getting us ready for school. Dad hugged her, said something that her laugh, kissed her on the cheek and left for work.
     I knew what I had seen had really happened.  But I figured that if everybody else wanted to erase the ugliness and start over, I, too, would pretend.  So, nothing was ever said about it.
      Looking back, my mother and father were passionate about everything. They could go at it like territorial bantams one day and coo like turtledoves the next. They made up with the same enthusiasm with which they fought. They were as tender as they were vitriolic.
     They had been together 64 years when Dad died.  Mother still keeps, beside her bed in the nursing home, a framed photograph of the two of them dancing on their 50th wedding anniversary. Each time I visit her she she will ask me, often multiple times, to reassure her that she will be buried next to Dad when she dies. She loves it when I tell her stories about their young life together, and I tell them to her over and over, knowing that, because of the Alzheimers',  she will remember but for the moment.  

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Beach in Winter

Beach in Winter
       It has been some time, but I checked this week. The ocean is still there, right where the map says it should be… on the right, a big blue expanse with no writing on it.

       It’s not really blue in North Carolina, you know. The water along the eastern seaboard seems to opt out of blue until somewhere below latitude 30… around Miami I think. Here, on the Carolina coast, it is a mottled green, like the back of a muddy turtle.

       Of course, to be fair, I make this observation on an overcast day in late December from the 11th floor balcony of a high-rise condo overlooking the grand strand of a virtually deserted North Myrtle beach. What’s left of this tourist Mecca is shivering under a teeth-chattering cold snap. Fact: The Official Myrtle Beach Area Visitors Guide lists the average air temperature in January as a balmy 58 degrees. That’s almost tropical, I thought, eying the book’s happy couple, strolling past wind bent sea oats toward the inviting surf. But the weather obviously doesn’t consult the visitor’s guide and this day was definitely NOT in the brochure.

       Maybe that’s why there was such a deep discount on the condo? Yuh think?

     Catamarans versus Monohulls
     Speaking of, I do miss the water. Selling my 34-foot sloop “Sails Call” was the right thing to do, of course. It was just time. She was built in 1984. She was almost 90 in dog years. And, I was beginning to spend more time repairing the sails than setting them. I would like to get another boat some day but my recent catamaran charters in the Caribbean have spoiled me. I told myself that the slip fees alone would more than pay for an annual charter in the British Virgin Islands. And they did! But, thanks entirely to The Moorings, I now want a boat bigger thanI can afford! I mean, once you sit in the captain’s chair of a 46’ x 24’ twin-hull monster that costs over a half-million dollars, your sailing gyroscope will never spin the same! Sailing catamarans have one drawback – they don’t sail very well to windward. Aside from that, there are no negatives that I can see.

     • DOCKING – Catamarans turn on a dime and park like Smart Car. By comparison, a monohull is a log in the water at the dock and can be painfully difficult to moor in a high wind.

     • CABIN SPACE - No comparison! It’s like you’re in a house or something. My first monohull was a 23-foot O’Day. You could ALMOST standup in the center. The next one was a 30-foot Catalina. You could stand up in the center but you couldn’t move very far without ducking down. The 34-footer was much roomier. But the CATAMARAN! Think floating apartment! 

     • SAILING - Like butter! When you hoist the mainsail, you are sliding the leech up 60 feet (or more) of mast (you may need some help with this) But once sail-deployed, this dude has a lot of speed! Sure, in a light wind, it’s slow going. But anything between 10 and 20 knots is a pure dream! Virtually no heeling, either. I am a cruiser, not a thrill-seeker. Hey, If a pontoon even hints at catching air, I’m lowering sail and motoring toward the nearest port! Know what I mean, fellow chicken hearts?

     • ANCHORING -- No sweat as long as the anchorage isn’t crowded. Last April at White Bay, Yost Van Dyke, BVI, we dropped a 50-pound plow anchor into 15 feet of turquoise water and held just fine in not the best ground.  Come to think of it, we were surrounded by boats and never came close to bumping one of them! 

Like I was saying...
     I like the way this ocean draws a sand line and dares the high-rise buildings and the neon glitz to come any further. “Do all of that over there, behind those dunes,” it seems to say. “Come any closer and you’ll be under water, fool.”
     And so the mad sprawl stops. The Tsunami of pavement and lights and piled up concrete freezes in mid crest, giving way to the placid mottled green of its ancient neighbor.