Forty years ago today, on July 4, 1969, my family was vacationing in a small cabin on the beach in Oscoda, Michigan. I happily recall running out the cabin door directly onto the sand, pail and shovel in hand. When my brother and I were not playing on the beach, we were busy in other pursuits, he in reading, and myself with a pen and notebook furiously intent on restyling the 1969 Pontiac line up into something at least marginally acceptable for 1970. I never could get past those frowning taillights. It seemed to me, now several years old, that a respectable car such as Pontiac should not frown. By midweek I had a pretty good 1970 Bonneville drawn, perhaps I should have sent the drawings to General Motors.
We had brought Dad's fishing boat along, all thirteen feet of it with an outboard motor slightly more powerful than a vacuum cleaner. It was on the morning of the fourth that Dad, my brother, and I set out for a morning of fishing. Mom decided to go into town instead.
In my adult reflections, I notice that Mom generally stayed home when the boat reared its shiny self. As fearless as she was in so many ways, Mom really wasn't all that lucky with boats, and especially with small ones. I think it dated back to her childhood, when as a youngster learning to ski, she had issues falling out of them and the like. So she begged off.
We weren't great fishermen to start with (except for that trip to Yellowstone in the summer of '70, but that hasn't happened yet) and by late morning the accountant and the two bored boys were ready to close their issue of Field and Stream and head for shore. We had a couple of hours to kill before meeting up with Mom, so we got burgers downtown and then Dad spied the Ice Cream Stand. We had just finished our cones (mine Chocolate Mint, thank you) when we spied Mom coming up the block. She asked if we had eaten yet and we confessed. She said she wasn't particularly hungry, but was amused by the ice cream stand. We returned to the scene.
Mom ordered a Banana Boat, which was a small banana split. It was served in a little plastic rowboat, hence the clever name. Isn't brand identity everything? Anyway, she received her little treat and began to eat it. I asked her (and I guess a bit loudly), "Mom, can I have the boat when you're done?" These two ladies standing within earshot heard me and immediately decided she was, in fact, the Meanest Mom on Earth, brazenly eating a sundae in front of her two small children. Cruella de Vil with her furs in storage, they surmised. Perhaps they had not seen us there a few minutes prior. Mom looked at me and thanked me for my discretion.
We were speaking again by the time the fireworks stated.
Like I said, she wasn't so lucky with boats.