I was probably about nine years old when my dad and his two brothers took me and my two brothers and all the rest of our cousins deep sea fishing. It wasn’t particularly that any of us wanted to go deep sea fishing, it was more about the fact that our mothers wanted a break. The shore isn’t much of a relaxing vacation for the matriarch of the family. Not only is there cooking and cleaning and washing sandy children off, and making beds and being the housekeeping service for the rental property; there is also evening entertainment in the form of rides and visits to the boardwalk, in addition to late night activities which include, but are not limited to, a trip to the local bar for a few drinks after the kids are in bed.
When I grew up and became a mother, I understood this. At nine, I couldn’t understand why my Mother needed a break. I mean, we were after all on vacation, and to me it just seemed like fun and good times. I did not want to go deep sea fishing with my Dad; I wanted to stay back at the house with my mom and be her shadow, but the answer was no.
“You will have a fun time; you will catch lots of fish and we can eat them for dinner”, my mother promised. I only half believed her, if that, but I tried to force myself into the idea that deep sea fishing would be fun because regardless of whether I thought so or not, I was going.
Also, I didn’t want to go with my Dad because my Dad, at least when we were growing up, was the stricter of my parents. In other words, he didn’t take any of our bullshit. We couldn’t quite get away with the kind of crap that my mother would tolerate(most likely because she didn’t know how to keep us under control) with my Dad. I was both in awe of him and scared shitless of him. Likely because he was the heavy. He was the threat my mother invoked near dinner time when she couldn’t settle our asses down and she had had enough. “Wait till your father comes home” she would say and we knew we had better stop.
In any case, My Dad and my two uncles and my four cousins and two brothers and I walked down a shore alley towards to the bayside where the boat was docked and where we were to get on board. There was some grumbling by the Dads about the exorbitant price of a day of deep sea fishing. There were several speeches given before the ship set sail about what lucky kids we were, and of course, there was grumbling and ungratefulness given off in return from the entire lot of us.
As the boat started to sail, we all started to get on board with the idea that deep sea fishing was going to be fun. The ride out to the deep end of the ocean was interesting and the boat sped along at a nice clip providing an exhilarating ride. The sun was out and my brothers and cousins and I made peace with the fact that we were going to be spending the day deep sea fishing so we might as well enjoy it. We all talked about who was going to catch the biggest fish and how we would cook a big feast from whatever we found in the ocean. There was a menu of food and snacks which we all anticipated ordering from with great expectation. The day wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
Hours later, we were sunburned, seasick, and not a single person on the boat had caught a single fish. When we finally pestered the living crap out of our fathers for snacks, because our dads didn’t give in as rapidly as did our mothers, we learned that the ship’s snack bar was out of everything except toastchee crackers, you know the bright orange ones filled with peanut butter. Yum! To top it off, the ride back to land was slow and all of us were miserable.
And then we all started to turn it into a big joke. We told our Dads just what we thought of our deep sea fishing adventure; that it sucked. Unlike our mothers whose feelings likely would have been hurt and they would have punished us out of a sense of frustration arising from the fact that their effort to entertain us went unappreciated, our Dads were impervious to our complaining, which of course, only made us complain more.
Then the complaining to turned to teasing. “Dad this is seriously the worst trip I have ever been on”, we all took turns saying. My oldest brother suggested that when he grew up and had kids, which incidentally he never did, or at least hasn’t yet at this point, he would take them deep sea fishing as a punishment because it was that bad. We all started laughing and joining in yes, yes, we would all punish our children with deep sea ventures when we grew up to be parents because we were sunburned and sea sick and no one caught a fish and really it couldn’t have been a worse day.”
At one point, we were cackling and probably being so annoying and ungrateful and obnoxious that our dads did put a stop to our bashing their attempt to spend quality time with us, their snotty, overindulged brats. But it was well after we had all found the silver lining in the day. We all got along famously; it was us against them. And our dads let us tease them. My Dad became a little more human to me that day, a little less scary. We could voice our opinions and our mothers weren’t there to shush us, and our dads were all home from work and we weren’t even getting in trouble for being bad. In fact, in spite of themselves, our dads even had a couple of laughs at our roast of their fishing trip.
That trip took place well over twenty years ago, but it still stands out as one of my happiest childhood memories and one of the best times that I had gathered with all of my cousins. The lesson here is that sometimes when you are in the midst of what seems like a day that is not going your way, you should keep a light heart. Try to find something to laugh at because who knows? Years from now it might be like the deep sea fishing story; a beloved memory.
Sometimes at the time what seems to be a punishment can turn out to be a treasure. I think the key is perspective and willingness to flip things upside down and look them from another angle. Life often brings circumstances and situations that we would prefer not to deal with. Often the best strategy is to simply not be serious about it. Laugh at your own misfortune, when possible and perhaps you will make a memory for a time when you can’t laugh at your misfortune but all you can do to save your sanity and yourself is remember that there were good times once, and there will be good times again. And if even if there won’t be good times again, at least in your life you had some good times because some people never have any or they have very few.
Seriously, the pioneers were on to something when they said “make hay while the sun shines.” Ironically, my kids love deep sea fishing, and still I’m not such a fan, so really its still a punishment for me and a treat for them. The last laugh is on me, which is okay, because better to laugh than to cry, and that is my advice for today people.