Mentor on Skates
My Godfather taught me to partner-skate on the icy pond back of their place, ringed with alders, orange bittersweet and cattails. It wasn't just kind of him; it was transformative.
I was shy as a colt and awkward. How does an eleven year old girl manage six sudden inches of growth in one year? I was nearly as tall as my Godfather, and stumbling over my own feet.
He didn't seem to notice.
He held my hands and wrists as we crossed arms. He knew I was a madcap solitary skater, but partnered? (Would I tangle my skates in his and bring us both down?)
"I won't let you fall," he said "Push off with your left blade... Here we go."
The man taught me to waltz on ice! I, Miss Pratfall in motion, who bumped into table corners and knocked over the salt and pepper.
I still didn't quite know where my elongations ended, but thanks to him, I never felt awkward again.
He and my Godmother lost their first two baby boys to SIDS. I loved my second parents in an agony over their pain. I've wondered since as an adult if their doing everything by the book included vaccines en masse.
They continued to be my boon companions. When I stayed with them, my Godmother taught me about the garden and sent me to harvest fresh spinach and onions, for the best salad I'd ever put in my mouth.
Away moored on Long Island Sound, they kept a sailboat. And on a glory day in spring we rode in their square-front MG, British racing green, to sparkling water. He taught me to duck when the boom swooped across and let me handle the tiller.
All my life their mentoring has stayed with me. Their kindness taught competence. It doesn't take much really, to steady the course of a child.
That said, they were also outrageous. When my dad announced that I would be sent far north to summer camp, my Godfather eyed my unease and counter-offered:
"No, no, we have thrilling activities at Camp Long Hill. You can weed, paint trim, stack firewood, dig clams, shuck corn, pick grapes, eat three strawberries for every one that lands in the bowl...!"
My dad gave his friend a withering look, and I got on the bus with my forest green camp uniform. I did have a fab time, galloping through the woods, sleeping to loons crying on the lake. But the Brigadoon of Camp Long Hill lives on.
Chores can be an adventure and, uh, thrilling!
Happy New Year to us all everywhere, and to quote Tiny Tim, "God bless us every one."
Wayfarer reads aloud: