There were only two boats in my lower east side life - The Staten Island Ferry and a Central Park rowboat. And the most time I spent out on Fire Island or the Hamptons I was of the domestic milieu - depending on the family: the teenage nanny, the teenage housekeeper, the young adult nanny, the young adult house helper. It's how I got my summer vacations. (Because there was no way we could afford for me to go out there otherwise, which is probably why in a recent drive to East Hampton for a weekend getaway my whole body cringed when we passed the South Fork Realty Sign.)
Three-plus decades later, this visit had no domestic demands other than join in on delicious cooking and high speed clean up so we could get back to Fun, another new possibility I had to figure out. And on the lone sunny day that included a boat.
Doc owned it. She owned like I own my thrift-store Prada kitten heels. Normal possession. And it was sleek and it went fast. (I always felt The Universe kept me too poor to own a motorcycle so that I wouldn't kill myself from sleek and fast.)
Scrambling on, I wondered if in fact reincarnation did exist. I had been here before. The water no longer looked like one of those nightmares where you find yourself naked in a social situation and they were about to give the mid-term you didn't study for.
No. The boat felt like a family reunion with people I was happy to see. A feeling that definitely did not come from anything in my life filled me like it had always been there. And the faster Doc went the happier I felt.
When we go to the part of the Fun that included crawling into a tiny air raft and being dragged around an inlet really fast, I thought nah, looks dumb and boring. But everyone else, including the non-swimmer, had gone and I wasn't good at turning down new experiences.
I crawled in, Doc revved up and when she hit 25 miles per hour, I didn't recognize the laughter roaring out of my body or these biceps easily holding on as I bounced up into the air and then surfed the raft into even more treacherous wake.
Then something odd happened. Looking down at my sturdy legs bracing against 4 feet of flying up and slamming down, and my arms grasping the handles, I looked like, just for a second, my grandfather the Ox.
A thug from Russia, he never lost a fistfight because the one punch was always his. And he punched anyone he deemed wrong - including all his family, the foreman of the rare Depression-era job, and the cop on the corner of Columbia and Grand. He taught himself to read and write English. He picked up whole pieces of big furniture without breaking a sweat and he worked, well, like an Ox. A short squat all muscled immigrant. Fearless.
As I bounced bigger and higher and roared louder and longer, I wondered how our family's heart and soul would have been if only the Ox had had my life and this moment.
MY PRIVATE CONEY presents IT WAS HER NEW YORK, the short stories that accompany the work-in-progress video and photo collection of the same name (myprivateconey.com - media link - IT WAS HER NEW YORK). The stories and the media explore the tender rubble that holds both my mother, Florence's and New York's soul as one disappears into old age and the other into gentrification. All are real observations and/or experiences with very little tall-tale telling.
Except when it makes the story better.
Please visit myprivateconey.com for additional information and sample works.