Filling in Time
With diapers to wash and bedtime stories to read, novels and boat projects may get neglected, and that’s OK.
One of my fondest memories of cruising—one of several that sustained me during the six long years of living landlocked while between boats—was that of having time, as it were, to burn. When my wife, Danielle, and I cruised in the Caribbean on Capella, a 27-foot Irwin sloop, there weren’t enough activities to fill a whole day, not to mention the day after and the day after that. We were always casting about for things to do. Even with acres of varnished brightwork to keep tidy, I read Bowditch cover to cover, digested Tolstoy’s War and Peace, learned celestial navigation, and still had time to play endless games of cards and Scrabble in between devouring every novel we could lay our hands on in marina book exchanges.
It was different living on land: a full-time job, children being born, doctors to visit, groceries to buy, boats to build. Whenever it became too much, I’d remember all the leisure of cruising, look longingly at all the untouched books gathering dust on their shelves, then, with leisure as my promised land, set to work again, earning money, spending it on fiberglass, and grinding a good bit of that away into itchy dust.
But every night is followed by a dawn, and here we are cruising again at last, five of us now. Antigone, whose arrival cut short our last cruise, is now almost 6, Emily is 3, and Damaris just fetched the 10-month milestone. Still, things aren’t like they were before. For one, Danielle and I haven’t played a single game of Scrabble. For another, I haven’t managed to get through even one book—at least not one of mine. I’ve read Green Eggs and Ham a dozen or so times, The Cat in the Hat more times than I can count, and from the look of things, I’ll be reading them every day as far into the future as I can see. Meanwhile, my volume of really interesting grown-up stuff sits idle for so long that it keeps getting lost under heaps of cut-out construction paper or scratchy drawings that must be explained to be understood. Still, many fathers don’t get the time to read The House at Pooh Corner to their children even once, to say nothing of eight or nine times. No, let the grown-up books rot; I’ll happily read about Piglet and the heffalump until I can recite it from memory, and I’ll love every minute of it.