Sunday, August 19, 2007

Beached on Plymouth Rock With a Lobster in my Craw

For some reason I seem to be a curse to motorboating. I have had motors conk out on the way to Point o' Woods on Fire Island, off the Isles of Shoals in NH as we floated ominously toward the rocks, deep at sea in Costa Rica (a story in itself), and lastly this past weekend in Plymouth Harbor on a boat called the "Lobster Tales."

Thirty-plus souls were aboard the boat, which pitched about in the chop while we waited for the Harbor Master to come to our rescue. The adventure would have been sweeter if I didn't have my toddlers aboard, shivering in the wind in borrowed sweatshirts that more resembled straitjackets. I took one to the head during the wait, where I discovered a brig stocked stem to stern with liquor of all varieties. Fortunately, we were saved before I had to start screaming "every man, woman, and child for himself" while tossing liquor bottles hither and thither.

To pass the time, the captain introduced us to the various sea creatures he had dragged up in a lobster trap, which included female crabs that had a sort of "trap door" in their undersides which could be pried open to reveal eggs and then snapped shut again, no harm done. A nice little evolutionary trick! The male crabs also had the image of a phallus on their underbellies, which he referred to as a "rocketship" for the sake of the kiddies aboard. He also brandished a couple of lobsters, who looked at me with their beady, black eyes.

We were in Plymouth for the big extended family reunion of my husband. Many of the participants did not even share our last name, since the male line has effectively dwindled away through a profusion of daughters--my two young sons being the only remaining male bearers of the name. As such, there is a certain gravitas to their existence. Why this should matter to me, a female, I'm not sure. Maiden names get buried and lost, generation after generation, and become traceable through old documents only. Their lineage is covert. Even on the monument to the forefathers in Plymouth the Mayflower wives don't even get a name--not even a first name. Their children do, however, male or female. Some of those names: Love, Wrestling, Remember, Oceanus. And we think baby-naming conventions now are odd! Apple and Moses would have fit in quite nicely.

While we were up there we visited a graveyard in Cohasset, where many of the gravestones were tip-tilted and worn with age, many from the 1700s. My elder child ran from stone to stone, demanding that I intone each name, while the younger squealed with delight and hid behind monuments and shrubbery. I thought briefly that I should tell the little one to respect the area, but instead I said, "Carry on, it's what they would have wanted." As we went from gravestone to gravestone, my older one clinging to my back, I spoke each name aloud--as many names as I could. Some of the smaller stones had first names only: Lulu, Baby, William. He didn't understand, but it was a good thing to do. Does speaking the name aloud--or having it chiseled on a rock--make the person's life any more meaningful? Does the relative anonymity of this blog make the sum total less? Names may not matter in the hidden history of the world, but speaking them aloud seemed to be a small blessing to the dead. Children ran down to the water at the setting sun, and shadows were cast by lichen-covered stones.

I find graveyards very peaceful. Some people won't buy a house next to one, but the neighbors don't make any noise. Memento mori, indeed!

On a lighter note, I will soon tell the story of the Cruise del Sucque off the coast of Costa Rica, March 2003. A broken engine, beating sun, diesel fumes, and a pregnant passenger (myself).

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