Little Green Boat

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Getting ready to launch the “Queen Mary” – Harvey’s 13′ Turnabout sailing dinghy

The Haarens lived
at the end of the street
in an old white colonial
at the edge of Polly’s Pond
near the mouth of Oyster Bay
which joined the Shrewsbury River
and flowed past Rumson
under the Sea Bright Bridge.

In the fall the river
would come to us,
when a hurricane like Dorothy
flooded the pond in ’57
and folks navigated the neighborhood
in their boats.

And in the winter,
we went ice skating on the river and
our adventures always starting
from the Haaren’s backyard.

Up to his knees in the muck

My family had a little green sailboat
called a “Turnabout”
a 13′ sailing dinghy royally dubbed
“The Queen Mary.”

There are photos in the family album
of my father
launching the Queen Mary
in the spring of 1958
standing in muck up to his knees
at the waters edge
easing the boat into the water
from the Haaren’s backyard.

I wonder
how many summers
Daddy got to play with his little boat
before he went to the hospital.
It couldn’t have been more than one or two.
He probably put the boat into the water
one spring day
and went off to the hospital a few weeks later.

After the launch, crossing Polly’s Pond to the Haaren’s dock

We kids were the only ones
who didn’t know
what was really happening.
Even Tommy Gross,
who lived in the big house
between ours and the Haaren’s
because he said to me one day,
“What if your daddy dies?”
and I said,
“My daddy’s not gonna die.”

But Tommy Gross
must have known something
that I didn’t know
because later that summer
my mother came into our room
and told us
that Daddy had died the night before.

She told us we could throw something
if we were angry.
My brother says he threw his bathrobe.

“stepping the mast”

We hung onto the little green boat
for as long as we stayed in Rumson–
about four more years after Daddy died.
But my brother was the only one
who was allowed to sail it.

I was too young
to take the boat out by myself
until the summer of ’62
when I went away to
Camp Kennebec
and earned my official
“skipper’s papers.”

But my mother had remarried
earlier that year,
to a dull attorney who thought
being close to New York
was more important
than being close to the river.

Ready for the maiden voyage!

So while I was off in Maine
finally learning how to sail
the rest of the family stayed behind
to pack up the household
and move it inland.

And while I was gone,
my mother sold the boat
and when the summer was over
I went home to a home
that had never been my home before.

So I never did get to sail
my Daddy’s little green boat
off the Haaren’s dock
out of Polly’s Pond
onto Oyster Bay
down the Shrewsbury River and
under the Sea Bright Bridge.