I WOKE up this morning to the gentle swaying of Adaline, a graceful old girl who knows how to take of her family. The sky was cloudy grey and the chill in the air reminded me that we were still in the grip of early spring. Coffee became my priority. I spent the night slumbering in her warm embrace, occasionally popping up at a strange sound. But the worry was for me, as I knew Adaline could take care of herself.
I remember the first time I saw her; I knew we would spend the rest of our lives together. There was something in the way she stood proud but not arrogant, confident yet aware of her limitations, strong but with an inner fragility. She has many years under her keel and has seen her share of storms, but she came from good ancestry, her family from the Amish country in Pennsylvania. She knows how to bounce back from foul weather.
Some have described her as big, but I prefer the term spacious. Her curves and lines are as they were intended, and she is built for her purpose, her life’s work. Where others may see size, I see strength. I have never seen her in a situation she could not handle and never felt she was in danger, although I have seen her in many a rough spot, often because of my carelessness.
I sit now, drinking my coffee and taking in her beauty. She is equally lovely in sunshine or clouds. I see magnificent age and glorious wisdom in every crack and imperfection. I see reminders of storms we have weathered together. But mostly I recall fond memories of happy evenings together, of sunsets shared and unbridled laughter. So many people have enjoyed her hospitality over the years.
I remember a time we got caught in the open in a terrible thunderstorm with nowhere to escape the fury. We stood at the river and took what nature dealt us, soaked and scared but no worse for wear. We smile to think of it now. Oh, how many places we have gone together we never would have gone alone.
I remember another time, spending the night on a lake. As I sat reading a book by lantern light, the gentle rocking of the boat swaying me to and fro, we heard strange noises coming from the nearby shore. Were they bandits coming to take our possessions or even our lives? We anxiously scanned the water’s edge with the spotlight and were relieved to see a family of racoons drinking water and eating snails. As they scurried off, we felt embarrassed for worrying and sorry for disturbing the animals.
Now, as age catches up with us, I wonder how much longer she can last. She is not as spry as she once was, but who of us is? She takes a little longer to get going in the morning and often complains of being cold. So, I am patient with her. I give her a few extra minutes to warm up and I don’t ask her to do things that are beyond her abilities, hoping she extends to me the same courtesy. I like to think we have many more years together. But whatever comes, I am glad we spent time together. I am a better man for having her in my life.
Adaline is not my wife, she is my mistress. But she is not a woman, she is my boat.
BC Cook, PhD lived on Saipan and has taught history for 20 years. He currently resides on the mainland U.S.