It’s been quite a while since I spent time in Martha’s Vineyard, but the memory is fresh. I spent my mornings on a bench with a cup of coffee at the harbor in Edgartown. There is nothing like sitting on the dock in the early hours. The waves gently lap at the pilings; boats rock with the beat; shore birds perch on piers, and sea ducks weave through the trash carelessly tossed into the drink by thoughtless tourists.
Sleepy bankers, lawyers and stock peddlers stumble out of BMW’s, Jaguar’s and Audi’s, and head for the charter boats. Upright fishing poles stand at attention to greet them. Well-used boats line the docks, with names that reflect the owner’s point of view: Splendid, Tenacious, and my favorite, My-Old-Lady.
The Wall Street titans, decked out in Armani shorts, Chap’s shirts and 300 dollar boat shoes are greeted by local boys, sailors and fishermen alike, smoking Camels and sporting jeans, work boots and stained T-shirts, one with an inscription, “Will trade wife for boat.”
It’s the meeting of two tribes: the blue-collar clan that makes things work and the white-collar clan that reaps most of the fruit. Hands are shaken. Grips made strong from swinging hammers and turning wrenches are matched with grips firmed up from grasping tennis racquets and swinging golf clubs.
Money changes hand and off they go. Their crafts create a wake that gives the tethered vessels a goodbye wave. Uniformed waitresses sit passive, killing time before their 8 a.m. shift in the Yacht Club, catching a few precious rays before they spend the day under manmade light. An old coot sits to my left, in knee socks and sandals, reading the Wall Street Journal and saying, “Howdy,” to every passerby.
A father came by one morning, pushing a boy and a girl in a double stroller. He was wearing a pair of gray sweat pants rolled up to his knees, sandals, a $60 T-shirt, and drinking diet ice tea from a leather ensconced water bottle. A group of ducks floated into view. I expected him to say, “Look at the ducks.” But he didn’t. Instead, he said, “Melissa, can you count how many ducks there are?” “Three!” she answered. “No, count again,” he replied. “Two?” she said this time, trying to please her mentor. “Right; you’re a good counter Melissa.”
But he was wrong. There were three ducks. He couldn’t see the one peeking out from behind the pier. She could. So, he just taught his daughter how to count wrong. We have such a hard time these days, letting kids be kids. We have to make sure they can count, say the alphabet, write their name, and otherwise be prepared for kindergarten.
We were lucky, my generation. We were brought up dumb. We learned all the stuff in school that today’s kids know before they get there. And, we stayed dumb. We didn’t learn to read until first grade, had no homework until seventh grade, and took college courses in college, not high school. We were lucky; we grew up dumb.
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