Wild Thing’s and my Dad’s 65th Launch
by Nancy Kelly
Dad was 18 years old when he bought his boat from Sears and Roebuck. Today, people refer to boats more specifically, but when I was little we simply said sailboat, cabin cruiser or speedboat. His was an 11-foot wooden speedboat, V-hull, sharp and pretty. The inside was beautifully ribbed and varnished annually. The three seats were made of wood but had comfy foam-rubber padding always covered smartly with some pretty fabric, usually full of psychedelic swirls of orange, hot pink, black and yellow. He covered the fabric with heavy clear vinyl. Those seats were groovy.
He painted slanted eyes on each side of the bow that summer and named the boat Wild Thing. He spray-painted the cover of the outboard motor fluorescent orange. We loved it. It was a classic that ruled the day.
Today, I helped Dad launch Wild Thing again. He’s 83 and I’m 48.
When I left for work last week, I’d see him working on Wild Thing in his shop, cleaning the boat out and varnishing all sides. It looked so pretty that my heart lifted with excitement as I anticipated a boat ride.
He worked on it every day. Then somehow he moved it out of the garage and across the street or under the trees, turned it over and painted the bottom. On a Friday morning, when I looked out the window I saw the boat. The paint job was done. Early morning sunlight coming through the trees danced on the beautiful blue paint. It was a picture of many past moments in time, and nostalgia gripped my heart.
This morning, Dad felt the joy of having Wild Thing ready to go in the water. He came over fairly early, looking for help to wheel his much-loved boat down to the beach and launch her one more time.
My husband and I went down with him and grabbed hold of the sides of the boat. Already positioned on the little two-wheeled axle we have always used since I was a child, it was ready to go. We pulled the boat out of the yard and onto the road. It was moving, and so was I, back in my mind to days gone by when I walked beside this boat, holding onto its sides along with a ton of my friends, all of our little hands pulling it down the road helping launch the fun of summer.
Today my heart pounded and I wondered how my father could still be pulling his precious boat up the road with joy and determination in every step. As we neared the top of the hill, we met a neighbor driving his crab truck. His elbow resting out the window, he gave us a smile, and we saw that he was enjoying seeing this sight coming up the hill as much as we were enjoying sharing it with him.
He encouraged us on by reminding us as we passed him at the very top, “It’s all downhill now.” Over the speed bump and round the corner, we headed for the water. The Bay was full of life, choppy and white with waves. Brilliant sunlight and a light breeze topped it off. We pulled quicker and ran it down to the edge of the beach and let her roll free into the water, wheels and all.
What a thrill to share it one more time with my dad. What can I say … we all love him … he’s a classic that rules the day.
Nancy Kelly, occasional contributor since 1993, reflects from Fairhaven.