Friday, May 10, 2013

The HIgh Seas

When I was a little girl, I had two godfathers -- one was the assistant DA of Washington State (retired), and the other a bank robber. I loved them both.

Uncle Harald, the DA, not the bank robber, is the only old guy of my early life. The only old man I knew personally until at least a decade later. I grew up in the subdivisions, and subdivisions didn't grow old people. We read about them in books and school, of course. But now I wonder where the subdivisions stashed all the old people -- None of us seemed to know any or see them wandering about the place.

Except my Uncle Harald. Uncle Harald was a most jovial fellow, a hugger, the only person I'd let muss my hair, and a teller of terrible jokes. Not dirty jokes, just incomprehensible ones.

"What's the difference between a red and white onion?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know your onions."

I assumed this joke must be funny, as he just laughed and laughed, so I told the joke myself with a certain amount of regularity. My friends were more honest than I was and would say, "I don't get it."

How he hooked up with my Aunt Erika, I have no idea. She wasn't even vaguely humorous, and could shut me up with just a look. Even when she smiled, there was something pained about it; effortful, like maybe her feet hurt or something.

Uncle Harald was a first generation American like me, and had certain assumptions about his ancestors, such as, all Norwegians can navigate the high seas. So he bought a boat that slept eight and an instruction manual, and we all climbed on board for a week-long trip around the San Juan Islands. He appointed my dad captain.

You know how it is when people think you can do something you've never done and you don't know if you can do it, but somehow you must figure out a way? That was my dad, on this trip.

Uncle Harald dubbed himself activities director and bartender. I don't remember my mom or Aunt Erika ever on deck. They attended to my sister and infant brother, somewhere in the bowels of the boat.

I never left deck. A five-year old who played with the big boys. My dad steered, my Uncle Harald mixed the drinks. My mom poked her green face out from the door once and said, "Jorg, is she wearing a life jacket?"

And Uncle Harald stirred the martinis and said, "What do you take us for? Of course she's wearing a life jacket."

When my mom disappeared down the rabbit hole, Uncle Harald said, "Jorg, where do you suppose we keep the life jackets?"

Dad, busy keeping us out of a coral reef or whatever, didn't answer.

"Hmmm, maybe under the bench? Starboard? Or is that aft? Oh hell. Karin, sit on this cushion. If we go overboard, hold it -- it's a flotation device."

[more to follow]

33 comments:

  1. Oh I love this already - greedy for more

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  2. Gosh, what an uncle, what a father! Those were the days. I can't wait for the next episode to find out whether or not you drowned.

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  3. Wait-what do you mean more to follow? This damnable well better br a novel serialization- John MacDonald style.

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  4. I love Uncle Harald. I presume you were able to hang onto the cushion?

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  5. Sheer awesomeness... (You and PB are onto something with sharing dad memories. I'm going to have to dive in, one day soon.) Can't wait for part two! I'm pretty sure you came out alive, but the details are much anticipated.

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  6. I am getting visuals of all on this boat.... wow lucky you, to have experienced this with this cast of characters!....:-) get back soon don't leave us hangin'...

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  7. Hilarious. Love reading your stuff.

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  8. What a great story! How cool is that, tooling around the San Juan Islands in a boat with the big boys?! Did you see whales? Pirates? Can't wait for the next chapter. Glad you survived to write about it.

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  9. Sometimes you just leave in in awe of your abilities as a writer. This is one of those times. This may be the most perfect opening sentence I have ever read.

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  10. You're onto something big here!!!

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  11. Amazing, just amazing.

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  12. Harald was the bank robber I hope. Maybe that's why Aunt Erika was always feeling peckish? Or she was Swedish and couldn't quite get past her prejudices.

    Yup, my childhood was completely unregulated too. Once, my family went out sailing and I jumped in just to see what would happen. I loved every minute of it.

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  13. Glad there's more to follow. This is very promising. Maybe the bank robber accosts them on the high seas and makes off with Aunt Erika, who is stunning in a thick-ish way. But like you, she can't swim, and, being who and what she is, she takes the only cushion with her--rips it from your cherubic, outstretched hands and . . . . Now I'm stuck. Over and out.

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  14. Oh my...my life always seems so dull when I read about your experiences. Harold sounds like a real character - and now I'm curious about the bank robber...

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  15. PA, oh good.

    Wayne and Bellis, I could provide a spoiler alert just about now.

    Des, Adele, and Marjie, the world needs more Uncle Haralds. Picture William Powell as an old goat.

    KBF, I know, lucky I came along for the ride.

    Birdman, I've noticed you and I often tread similar waters.

    Kathy and Paula, just episodes. No 5-year old child was harmed in the making of this post.

    Banjo, who said I couldn't swim? My mom was just erring on the side of caution.

    Carolynn, Uncle Fred's professional life took a turn for the worse. I wrote about him once, I'll write about him again.

    Sage, thank you. Just thank you.

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  16. Karin, no doubt you are a good storyteller! I'm already looking forward to chapter 2.

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  17. Oh great. A cliffhanger.

    Please don't forget to tell us about your bank robber godfather too.

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  18. I'm glad you're alive to tell it.

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  19. Well, you've got me hooked! Holding my breath till the next installment....!

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  20. How did we all survive the lack of regulations and all that independence???

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  21. ooh what a picture you paint......am on tenterhooks!!

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  22. Adventurous stuff. And for some reason that joke made laugh out loud.

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  23. The older people lived in clapboards and California bungalows in old neighborhoods like Altadena, or Montebello, where I grew up.

    I miss that lighthearted we'll-figure-it-out approach to life. Too many lawyers spoiled the broth, maybe.

    How fitting to read a story about the San Juan Islands on this of all mornings.

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  24. I sea. Now I can hardly wait for the story on your godmother(s)!

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  25. You remember when moms would do the pre-flight before starting up the car, asking, "Everyone have their seat belt on" and dads piling kids in the back of their pick up and saying, "Hang on, and don't tell your mother."

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  26. You can't follow this. But I've said (or thought) this before...

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  27. I started out wishing you'd led with the bank robber, but Uncle Harald's story has much promise.

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  28. Gloria Grahame...Mom got it often! Thanks Karin

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  29. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  30. It's a good one already and I'm looking forward to more!

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  31. When's the next epi? Have you secured film rights?

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  32. Don't be too disappointed when the little girl doesn't fall in the drink during Act 2.

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