Great News! Our daughter is pregnant. She is the first Goodlander ever to plan it! I mean, she intended to get preggers! My, how times have changed. Even more amazing: she’s married. To a man! And both of them have a job and an apartment and won’t have to sell the child immediately to buy more crack cocaine. How lucky can we get?
This means, if I understand this family relationship thingie correctly, that I will be a grandfather. I honestly thought maturity would come first—but, hey, I was wrong.
There will be a grandchild. It will look up to me. (I’ll be taller!) I can teach it things. For instance, I can give it the benefit of having spent 20 + years as a Caribbean Sea Gypsy. “Never trust anyone who can pronounce the letter H,” I’ll tell it.
Or, “… if you don’t know what ‘bahn heer’ means, then you ain’t!”
Sailing with an infant isn’t difficult: we can tow the soiled diapers. Better yet— we can chop up that old storm trysail for ‘disposable’ nappies.
Sure, they’ll be a tad stiff—all the better to toughen up the little bilge rat.
If the baby finds the diapers too stiff and cries, we can just let out more scope on the dinghy painter.
There are endless ways of being creative with a young Caucasian tot in the tropics. For instance, you can place plastic letters on their belly and bring their bassinets on deck at noon—to spell out clever things. Not just the obvious, TEACHERS SUCK, but heavy statements too, such as I POOP, THEREFORE I AM.
Or WHERE IS THE MILKMAID?
Okay, my parenting skill may be a tad rusty—but I’m looking forward to it.
My grand child will be fourth generation boat bum—er, I mean, will have an illustrious maritime heritage to live up (or down) to.
What’s the best way to insure this? Why, we’ll just have the Little Pirate aboard often—and show it such a good time it will never want to return to shore and live among the dreaded dirt-dwellers. (I don’t believe in going to the absurd lengths some sailing grandparents do to accomplish this: showing the infant pictures of boats and giving it sugar water—and then showing them pictures of houses and giving them electro-shock therapy.)
Don’t forget: I grew up aboard the John G. Aden-designed, 52-foot schooner Elizabeth in the early 1950s. I slept sandwiched between my two teenaged sisters in the V-berth of the forecastle. It was fun. My sisters were at constant war. If one threw up, the other would say, “Well, I can throw up better than that!”
Once they discovered boys, I was in heaven. My parents made me ‘tag along and be chaperone’ when my sisters went on informal dates. My favorite port was Pensacola, as it had a Navy base. I became instantly wealthy—as I allowed it to become widely known that I could be bought.
“… That’s right,” I told the startled sailors when we were alone. “Every man has his price—and mine is cheap! One more hint: I collect pens, cigarette lighters, and Captain’s hats should you want to jump the queue—in addition to other things.”
I actually printed up a price sheet—so the sailors would know, in advance, the cost of their ‘first base, second base, HOME RUN!’ seductions.
This directly benefitted me in a number of ways: I was able to, early on, discover 1.) the joys of voyeurism, 2.) the entrepreneurial thrill of being corrupt, and 3.) the benefits of wealth
… yes, if things had gone differently, I might have ended up the head of HP.
Or, to put it another way, my parents couldn’t afford to send me to Harvard— and did the best they could instead. (As I’ve matured, I’ve learned a few additional things—like never put ‘pimp’ on a job application.)
Oh, I had a grand time as a boat kid! I remember once in Carrabelle, Florida, when a group of ‘do-gooders’ gathered on the dock to discuss the State taking me away from my radical parents— just because my father wore a dress (Polynesian pareo) and dissed Christians as ‘delusional flat-earthers’.
So, to show family solidarity, I stuck my tiny hand out of a port hole and showed the group just what I thought of them. I knew they’d seen it—from the sharp intake of their horrified breath.
Even my sisters were shocked. “You just shot ‘em the Bird!”
“… did not,” I said.
“… did too,” said one sister.
“… did too,” said the other.
“I just … well, lowered four of my other fingers, that’s all!” I explained.
Yes, it is still great fun toying with the local shore-huggers—even at 58 years of age.
But I’m more interested in future fun than re-living the evil glories of my sea gypsy past.
I believe our new grandchild will not only be fun to sail with—but highly useful as well.
Babies are great at deck sanding: first, you lay them on wet epoxy, then you set them on some beach sand, and finally you transfer them to the hot surface of the deck. (The little beggars only go orbital, in-line sanding is impossible until around the age of six. And, yes, bring your iPod if you are overly-sensitive to pitiful sounds.)
I’m constantly loosing small nuts, washers, and bolts in the bilge. It will be wonderful to, once again, have a small child aboard which I can just grab by an ankle and play “Dip for Grandpa’s Treasure!” with.
I’m not big on spanking or corporal punishment. However, a little ‘tap on the tush’ does get their attention. But children, like dogs, should never be hit with the hand—and a rolled up newspaper seems a bit crass. Luckily, I’m a sailor. I just tack extremely slowly and hold the kid bottom-up to the whipping jib sheet—that does the trick!
Besides, if you want to threaten the kid in polite company, you can just grin and ask ‘em, “Whatdaya tink, kid—we should tack?”
… that will drain the blood out of their smirky little faces. (I’ll save my other marine-parenting technique re: gybing—until the kid is older and has a sturdier skull.)
At bed time I’ll read to the cute little tyke. For example, I’ll read it all the non-sex parts of my autobiography Chasing the Horizon. That should take three or four minutes.
Young kids don’t need their own bunks—I’ll just punch a hollow in our spinnaker bag. Or stash them with the (phew!) laundry. I don’t believe in coddling ‘em: why search around for Johnson’s Baby Shampoo when Borax and a deck brush will serve just as well?
Okay, okay—I’ll be safety conscious. I’ll make the grandkid wear a PFD and, when it is old enough, tell it what those letters stand for. (Pretty Frumpish Device.)
I’ll also insist on a long, strong safety harness. That way—it is easy and convenient to chum for Great Whites—just make sure you snatch the kid back on deck and toss the shark hook as the ravenous creatures hit the surface with their mouths wide open.
We Goodlanders have certain bizarre ‘sea gypsy’ traditions to uphold. For example, our daughter (the kid’s mother-to-be) was raised mostly in Caribbean rhum shops like Le Select on St. Barts. I remember once I was drinking there and an innocent American tourist couple wandered in (by mistake) and the woman said in a horrified tone of voice, “Oh, that’s awful! There’s a small child playing under the table and … and … it is eating a bug!”
I immediately slid off the bar stool, bent down, and carefully observed my child: it wasn’t a bug she was eating, it was a chameleon. Still, it was against the rules. So I used my stern Daddy-voice when I scolded her.
“I told you not to spoil your dinner!” I said in exasperation.
Some people have accused me of being a tad greedy. Not so. Both times, when Mark Marin of Antilles School called me up to announce our daughter was valedictorian of her class and when the trustees of Brandeis University called me up to announce she’d won a merit scholarship— well, neither time did I mention money first. To Antilles, I just asked if … well, there was any parental cash involved … and to Brandeis … if we could save them some dinero by opting for greenbacks instead of the education (which is, let’s be honest, sort of iffy in value).
Frankly, I credit my daughter’s excellence in higher education to … me. Why? Because once I asked her why she was such an avid reader—and she succinctly explained to me, “… either I read or I listen to you.”
I was her motivator— in a sense.
Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed with the whole university thing. It took her four years to get a BS— which I wallowed in every time I drank.
Let’s just say—I had a different focus during my school years.
When she called me up about going back to school for her Master’s Degree—we had a bad telephone connection. I heard, “Dad! I’m thinking about going back to school and (garbled)… taking (garbled) MBA!”
“I dunno, honey,” I shot back. “I’d be careful. In my day, it was LSD. I’d recommend taking just half a cap—if you like it, you can always do the remainder!”
The bottom line is that I thought we parents only got one shot at torturing our kids—now I realize that’s not true. We can stress-test the ‘grands’ in the same horrible way we did their mother. Yippee! Our cup runneth over aboard Wild Card!