Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Toast in Honor of Mary Lee

When I was a little boy, we had a summer home.  My old man is dead almost thirty-five years and I have yet to figure out how the Kennys managed to afford a summer house on a lake at a time when most of us - if not all of us - still lived under the familial roof and all of Mom's work was performed at home.  Mom resumed working outside of the home after Kara, Jill and I started attending W-H, which did not happen until the latter half of the 1970's.  

Our house was on Harvey's Lake, Pennsylvania, which billed itself at the time as the largest natural lake in Pennsylvania.  Whether that is true, I do not pretend to know although it does say so on the town's Wikipedia page, which I am confident has been meticulously vetted for accuracy.   Summer days were utter bliss.  From sun up to sun down - other than a Mom-required break in the early afternoon to eat lunch and then again in the early evening to eat dinner - time was spent in and on the water, whether skiing, boating, or swimming.  I loved summer.  I would return to school every September with baked-brown skin and white blonde hair, having spent the previous two and one-half months doing a lot of nothing.  I was excellent at it.  Still am. 

The only downer days during the summer were rainy days.  In part because Dad - who knew less about fishing than anyone this side of Ahab - went to his grave convinced that rain caused fish to come closer to the surface of the lake, which in theory made them easier to catch.  I never quite grasped the concept of why exactly a creature whose entire life is lived underwater would take such an interest in rain.  Believe me.  Dad and I spent enough time sitting in our boat getting rained on while trying to catch fish - me using whatever piece of crap pole I could find and Dad using the utterly ridiculous Pocket Fisherman that he either ordered for himself or convinced Mom to buy for him.  To my memory we never caught a fish of any discernible size.  We certainly never caught a fish that we later ate. 

The Pocket Fisherman - as useless as it was as an implement for catching fish (unless you managed to throw it and strike a fish with it as the fish swam near the boat) was a nice complementary piece to the one hundred walnut sticks he ordered through the mail, thinking one could actually purchase one hundred walnut trees for $10.00, or the dress slacks he used to order through the mail in sheer disregard of the notion that one whose size was "Short and Fat" could not wear any pair of trousers.  Had Dad not died before the advent of cable television and channels such as QVC and the Home Shopping Network, he would have bankrupted my parents.     

Every now and again, however, a rainy, summer day would be spent - in part at least - at the movie theater located at the Wyoming Valley Mall.  And it was there, on one of the theater's two screens on a rainy afternoon in the Summer of '75 that I saw Jaws.   I was unaware - until I saw something about it on-line the other day - that Jaws was released theatrically forty years ago today.    
All these years later, both Spielberg's film and Benchley's book upon which it is based remain among my favorites.  Forty years ago, as an eight-year-old kid who had read the book multiple times, Spielberg's film scared the living bejeebers out of me.  It did not scare me while I sat in the theater watching it, dry and safe, protected by my older siblings as well as Mom and Dad.  However, there was not a single moment of a single day that I spent in the water, from the day on which we saw the movie until we packed up and headed back to New Jersey on Labor Day Weekend, during which I did not relentlessly scan the water around me for shadows and shapes.  

On sunny days, I continued to live in and on the water.  But I never relaxed.  I remained ever vigilant in my quest to spot a dorsal fin.  The fact that we lived on a lake was of no moment to me whatsoever.  The fact that the lake upon which we lived was so far from either the Atlantic Ocean or any body of water that came anywhere near the ocean was similarly unimportant to me.

What was important to me?  Knowing that the boat I had damn sure was not big enough to grapple with a shark...


...not even close. 

-AK 

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