Monday, June 22, 2009

Letter from Mom, Part 2

The only student I have had who was raised on a boat hated it… If you go through with this and anything happens, yours and Peter's lives will be ruined… Think about what I'm saying because you are 34 now and the last thing you will want to do is count on Silas to take care of you in your old age.
Love, anyway ---Mama.

It’s so nice to have the support of family. Luckily, of course, Peter and I don’t need it, because the kinds of conventional choices we’ve made in life don’t take much in the way of courage or self-confidence. Sailing a small plastic boat across 12,000 miles of ocean, for example, or having a baby in a far-away land. Immigrating to a strange country, where the natives used to be cannibals, and they now eat Vegemite on toast. None of these choices was scary, or even challenging in the least. Sometimes, we forget we even have a family, but that’s just because we’re knocking back the scotch for breakfast while our child shivers alone in the bilge.

The thing about my mother is, no one can ever accuse her of false cheer. Tell her you’re going to live on a sailboat in the sunshine, and she’ll educate you on the malignant dangers of skin cancer. Send her a chatty email about what’s happening in your life, and she’ll respond with news about brain tumors and the pile of termite shit she found behind the living room couch.

What I should really do is hire her as a consultant. The very best sailors are the ones who expect the worst. They are prepared for every eventuality at sea: dangerous weather, broken equipment, sickness, mayhem and injury. And despite our best efforts at safety, I’m sure there are some things we’ve overlooked.

We should fly my mother to New Zealand, and ask her to come aboard. She’d take one look at the mast, poke it suspiciously, and ask, “What’s this big metal stick doing, standing up on its side like that?”

“That’s the mast, Mom. We use it to hold the mainsail in place.”

“Too risky. It’s going to crush the baby.”

“No, Mom, see? It’s very strong. It’s held in place with these stays, they’re steel cables under tension…”

“Oh, great, so when they break they’ll go whizzing around the boat like insane vipers and chop your arms and legs off. Then that stick thing will fall down and smash the baby. How are you going to take care of your smashed baby with no arms and legs? Did you ever think of that?”

“No, Mom. I didn’t think of that.”

“Well, you really ought to think about it, because you’re 34 now, and the last thing you want is a smashed baby and four bloody stumps.”

“That’s true. I wouldn’t want that.”

“So sell the boat.”


“And get a job.”


“And move back to California. And live with me. In my basement apartment.”


"Then you'll be safe."

“Yes, Mom.”

And she's right. If we just stay on land, Silas won’t be crushed, or drowned, or raised in poverty. And everything will be just fine.


  1. See,

    First of all, I think I might have one of those melanomas. Thanks for the heads up. And I think your mother might BE one of them-- in the most loving sense of the word, of course.

  2. Let's collect them! I'm partial to the green and yellow number, far right, second row from the top.

  3. Ah geeze next we'll be comparing scabs. I took my 85yo mother-in-law to have her last few teeth removed today. She will be extra pleasant for the next few days I'm sure. My family always told me things like "If you're going to be stupid, you had better be tough" and "You'll never see 21, if I don't kill you the neighbours will" meant in the kindest of ways I'm sure.......martin