Found Treasures #2

 This is another story of a collected piece of paper that I haven’t been able to toss. Up to now.

If you remember the logo, it’s Dave Barry who used to write wonderful one-page witty stories for the Washington Post Magazine. Maybe he still does. This page dated June 17, 1990.

This particular story presented a look at a summer sailing trip he made with several families, including children. After reading it, I wrote some lines across the top from a sea-faring adventure I’d had and wanted to write about and the piece of the paper went into a stack to be unearthed these many years later.

And since we’re about to the weekend when people make their last trip to the ocean (people, that is, who live near an ocean/lake visit for midwesterners) it seemed the perfect time to present my ocean story.

The lines across the top of the page, which is as far as I got with the essay, begin, “They say barracudas don’t bite. They also say that to ensure that a barracuda doesn’t bite, don’t wear flashy jewelry under water. That’s easy. I don’t wear flash jewelry on a big Saturday night in New York, why wear it on a Caribbean vacation where it would, at best, get tangled in the snorkel tube.”

That’s as far as I got; so here’s the rest of the story from living in St. Lucia, many years ago, and my “Brush With Death,” as Dave Barry called it.

We lived on the side of a mountain above a banana plantation but there was a tiny beach, mostly rocky, at the base of the hill that let into the ocean, and the water clear enough and shallow enough that we’d spent time drifting above a coral reef and watching seahorse daddies with fat pouches of young and brilliant trumpet fish.

However, my friend’s back went out and I was bored. Intrepid traveler and all, I decided to go swimming alone. As I said, the water was shallow. Probably the first rule to swimming in a deserted cove is not to go alone, but I hadn’t read that rule.

Snorkeling is relaxing – drifting face down, fins flapping slowly for balance, sort of like a big fish. The biggest challenge is getting into the water in the first place, backwards, over rocks. But I managed. Slowly. And didn’t lose my flippers.

So I watched the fish homes we’d come to recognize on other days and then I became adventurous, looking for new territory. That may be the second rule to swimming in a deserted cove:don’t get too cocky.

But I did. And noticed how the bottom suddenly dropped like a cliff. Interesting! So I drifted on, paddling lightly, watching and exploring.

Far below, I saw a sudden shift as a long shadow became a barracuda. I’d wandered into someone’s territory. And barracuda decided to check me out. My later, rational mind tells me that if the barracuda had wanted to catch me, it would have. At the time, I wasn’t exactly rational.

I swam faster than I’d ever swum in my life, arms and legs flailing like some cartoon character, a Road Runner/Coyote, perhaps, in the water. The rocky bottom leveled and I pulled myself out, panting: a moment of high relaxation, lemme tell ya.

That was it. I walked back up to the house. Vowed never to go swimming alone again. And I didn’t. And the experience by itself too short, really, for its own story. Ah, but an unearthed piece of paper from twenty-two years ago which I have saved for the perfect moment? Now, that’s the real rest of the story!

What end-of-summer story have you been hording all these years, waiting for the perfect moment?

Is it time to reveal?


Found Treasures #1

The tale that wouldn’t stop wagging

In the latest office move and resultant clearing out and tossing, I’ve found saved treasurers that, taken together, may become a series: ergo the title. And like all saved gems, regardless of the makeup (glass, plastic, paper, pottery), they have a story. This story is The Tale That Wouldn’t Stop Wagging. And yes, I’ve used “tale” and not “tail.”

The tale really begins with my older sister Judy and me and sixty plus years of experiences, fighting as two sisters often do, and taking care, as sisters also tend to do.

The first time we each married, we married within two years of each other. Our children are stair-stepped in ages and the oldest grandchildren in the family. We both tended children and homes for a good many years and we both divorced. And then we each remained single for a good many more years. The last time we each married, the timing also ran to about two years apart, but until then we spent a lot of time taking care of each other in one way or another.

The Tale That Wouldn’t Stop Wagging is one of the reminders of that care taking.

The way we are different is also predictable: Judy, as oldest is remarkably responsible: a good employee; I, as second child, am remarkably irresponsible, never holding down a full-time job with benefits job in my life. We’ve both moved a lot, but my moves have tended toward the extreme while hers have remained in the Continental United States. This is minor, but figures into the tale of tails.

In the early 1980s, I lived in New York City for a few years. I can’t remember how or why I became a member of the Humane Society of New York, but I did. I had a cat, but she’d come to New York from New Orleans, so it wasn’t as if I used their services much. But I became a member.

And then, in the late 1980s, I moved to Mexico City. The cat lived with friends, and I left a forwarding address of Bellingham, WA, which is where my sister, her last name also Sunderland, lived at the time. Judy received the newsletters from the humane society. And then she moved from one address in Bellingham to another, and of course, the humane society was able to track that.

And then, she became Sunderland-Yorkey, and the humane society took note. Every once in a while, she’d receive another newsletter. And then she moved, with her husband, to Spring Texas. But still in the Continental United States with no gaps in addresses.

In about 2007, years after she moved, and years after I’d moved to Kansas City, and years after getting the last Humane Society of New York newsletter back in Bellingham, the above envelope arrived, replete with printed tails. She called and told me and we laughed long and hard, and then she sent it to me, and I wrote, “The tale that wouldn’t stop wagging” on it, and put it in a file, thinking it would be a good story someday. And then I responsibly cleaned out the file, found it again, and it is a good story.

That’s the problem with being responsible. Things find you.

Now she’s moved again but I’m still in Kansas City, a hyphenated-name in the files of the Humane Society of New York. But a few years have passed. Time enough for return envelopes to return and a new address begun. Eventually, another envelope will wend its way to where she is.

The tale to be continued, in one way or another, or as Judy puts it, “I’ve no doubt that when/if I get to Heaven, within a couple of weeks I will have mail from the NY H. S. addressed to “Janet Sunderland-Yorkey!”