Friday, February 19, 2016

The Garden of Memory: 'The Boat'

         My story "The Boat," published this week on the Every Writer's Resource website's "Short Stories" page is a very short story about a very long subject. Memory.
( Here's the link:
         In a relatively few words (the rules for this publication call for stories under 500 words) I tried represent some impression of my mother's last years and our visits with her. In those years after my father's death, she lived first in a senior independent living center, a self-contained semi-paradise of a place in Suffolk County, N.Y., and then, when her health seriously declined, in a nursing home.
         Whenever Anne and I visited we tried to take our of her residential facility, give her a change of scene, some stimulation, maybe something new to think about. Her facility was located on the north shore of Long Island, not far from the coast. We'd take her 'out for a drive,' our little excursions tending naturally to the shore.  In earlier days we walked in parks, visited beaches, fed the ducks on a Stony Brook pond neatly surrounded with a carefully constructed boardwalk, ideal for slow walkers and wheelchairs. When she could no longer walk much, we wheeled her in a chair.               
           When conditions were not right for a wheelchair, we stayed in the car. 
           "Let's go for a drive," we said, those last few years. We found little parks or town beaches with parking areas. We parked close to the water, sat in the car, and looked for ducks or birds. Boats or clouds. Flowers or people. 
             We remembered things. We talked about the past. Since in those years not much 'new' was happening in Mom's life, and not too much about our life was likely to make a lasting impression, we turned to memory.

             "What about your memories, Mom?" we asked, one way or another. We tried to remember stories she had told us. 
             When you look at water a lot, a likely subject is boats. Hence my story.
              In it, the narrator (basically me) asks Mom about a recollection of a 'boat' owned by one of her relatives and kept on different Long Island shoreline. I asked her which uncle had owned it. Had they not taken her out for a sail, or a cruise, on the bay one summer day? 
              Her response was vague. 
              When, after it appeared on line, my sister read the story , she told me whose boat it was -- which uncle, paired with which aunt, kept the thing on Flushing Bay.
               I'm not remembering the details of these fleeting bits of family lore as well as I used to. It's one of the 'meanings' of a story, even your own, that can sneak up on you. The 'boat' in the story exists not only in Mom's memory, but in mine. And the story is fading. 
              We're all in the same boat.